DAYR ABU MAQRUFAH and DAYR AL-JANADLAH.
[This article is composed of two parts. The first describes the location and history of the dayr. The second delves into the architecture as revealed in the archaeological remnants.]
These two villages are on the border between the cultivated land and the desert, on the left bank of the Nile, about 7.5 miles (12 km) south of ABU TIJ, in the province of ASYUT. These two villages now form a single agglomeration under the name of Dayr al- Janadlah. The first appears to be the older, since it is the only one mentioned in the surviving documents: the State of the Provinces(A.H. 777/A.D. 1375) and the histories by ABU SALIH THE ARMENIAN and al-MAQRIZI.
In the rocky cliff about half a mile south of WADI SARJAH is the Monastery of the Virgin with its two churches, built into old quarries. The old church dedicated to the Virgin contains an altar dedicated to Abu Maqrufah (Macrobius). It also contains paintings of personages that are scarcely legible. One hour's walk away, in the mountain, there is also a small LAURA called Dayr Maqrufiyus.
The Dayr Abu Maqrufah is mentioned by Ibn Duqmaq (1893, Vol. 5, p. 24) and by Abu Salih (The Churches . . . , fol. 90a, 1895, pp. 114 [text], 252 [trans.]). Abu Salih seems guilty of double confusion, for he indicates that the church is dedicated to Saint Sergius, perhaps because of the neighboring Wadi Sarjah, and situates the monastery east of Asyut. Al-Maqrizi (1853, Vol. 2, p. 507; 1845, pp. 43 [text], 104-105 [trans.]) is more precise. According to him, the name Abu Maqrufah is that of the neighboring village. The monastery is dug in the lower part of the mountain with a number of caves, is dedicated to the Virgin, and has no water supply. This corresponds to the present situation. At the foot of the dayr there is a large, deep well of fine cut stone.
A more recent description is given by M. Jullien (1903, pp. 237-38; see also Clarke, 1912, pp. 171-74). However, the plan of the church hewn out of rock (pl. 52, fig. 1) appears erroneous, for there is no room for the right-hand chapel to the southeast.
The cemeteries at the edge of the village and at the foot of the Dayr al-‘Adhra’ were excavated by W. M. Flinders Petrie in 1907, and the stelae found were published by him (1909, pl. 54, no. 13; 1907, pl. 39-40). The saints invoked on these funerary stelae are Thomas, Peter, Joseph, Anup, and Pamun; oddly, the name of Macrobius is not there. The first might be the founder of the monastery Wadi Sarjah.
The saint who gave his name to the village and to the laura in the mountain is MACROBIUS, Disciple of Moses of Abydos, and is mentioned very briefly in the SYNAXARION for 7 Baramudah (Forget, 1953-1954, Vol. 67, p. 64 [text]; vol. 90, p. 65 [trans.]). The text of manuscript C (National Library, Paris, Arabe 4780, from DAYR AL-MUHARRAQ) reads: "Today went to his rest the great saint Macrobius, son of the prince of the town of Qaw, who lived in the mountain of Wadi Sarjah." The edition of the Synaxarion by the qummus ‘Abd al-Masih Mikha’il and the qummus Armaniyus Habashi Shata al-Birmawi (1935-1937) gives a more developed notice.
The old church dedicated to Abu Maqrufah in Dayr al-Janadla (Clarke, 1912, p. 171) was dismantled some time in the mid-twentieth century. About 1.25 miles (2 km) to the southwest, on a mountain slope in the area of an extensive pre-Christian hillside quarry, lies a walled ecclesiastical precinct of the same name. It is uninhabited today and contains two churches and some unpretentious living quarters. Both churches have been regarded as modern (built in 1865, according to Meinardus, 1965), although included in the older one is a quarry cave that was already serving as a church in the early Christian period. Some of the furnishings of this older church are visible on the ceiling and the walls of the cave. The erection of a few brick walls and perhaps also some round columns or pillars presumably gave it the appearance of a basilica. The central section of the cave, where more of the ceiling has been hollowed out, assumed the role of the nave. The side walls are virtually parallel and contain a number of niches hewn out of the rock. Their upper border is provided with a gable-shaped piece such as is known particularly from the niches of the church of the Shenute monastery (DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH) at Suhaj. The rock walls are plastered. In several places extensive fragments of painting are preserved, though severely blackened by smoke. There is not a trace of the original sanctuary, which, according to the generally required eastern direction, would have been positioned in the area at the cave entrance and must have been built of bricks. Like the rest of the rooms, the apse is modern. The hijab (screen) erected in front is made up of different varieties of early Christian decorated stones (tomb stelae and fragments of friezes). It is possible that some of these were used in the original church. In all probability, this church belonged to a community of monks who made their homes in the neighboring quarry caves. It is to be dated to the seventh century.
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