DAYR MAR JIRJIS AL-HADIDI. [This entry consists of two articles: History and Architecture.]
This monastery, which like many others has become a Christian village inhabited by Coptic priests and their families, is situated near
the right bank of the Nile about 5 miles (8 km) south of Akhmim. We cannot say at what date it was founded, but it was established in honor of two Syrians martyred at the same place, probably Eulogius and Arsenius. The cult of these martyrs appears to be old, for one reads their names on several objects, such as a lamp found at Karnak (Munier, 1917, pp. 160-62) and an ostracon in the collection of the Egypt Exploration Fund (Crum, 1902, p. 5, no. 26). Their feast (16 Kiyahk) is the same in both the SYNAXARION of the Copts from Upper Egypt and the typica of the White Monastery (DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH). There is also a mention of their feast in a manuscript in the British Library (Crum, 1905, p. 154).
The present buildings were restored in 1870. G. Steindorff (in Baedeker, 2nd ed., 1902, p. 220) thought that the true name was
Dayr Mar Jirjis al-Hadithi (Mar Jirjis the younger), and S. Timm has recently believed that he was right (1984-1986, Vol. 2, pp. 713-14); but the titular saint of this monastery cannot be Saint George the younger, for two reasons.
First, the adjective hadidi (of iron) refers to the word dayr, an allusion to the iron-covered entrance gate, and not to the saint.
Besides, this saint did not receive the adjective al-hadithi but al-jadid (the new), more familiar to Egyptian Arabic.
Second, the dates of the mawlids (pilgrimages) are 7 Hatur and 23 Baramudah, which are the dates of the feast and of the consecration of the church of the great Saint George (of Cappadocia). The feast of the tenth-century Egyptian martyr George is on 19 Ba’unah.
Among the European travelers who mention the monastery are R. Pococke (1743-1745, p. 81), M. Jullien (1903, p. 275), and A. H.
Munier (1940, pp. 157-58). S. Clarke set out the plan of the church and noted it in his list of the churches, reproduced from a list of the Coptic Patriarchate, Cairo (1912, pp. 142-44, 213, no. 13, and pl. 42, 1). Meinardus gives a good description (1965, pp. 298-99; 1977, pp. 410-11). Recently it has been the object, both from an architectural and from a sociological point of view, of the work of the architect M. Nessim Henry Gad (not yet published; see the notes of Sauneron, 1972, pp. 209-210).
This monastery is still a place of pilgrimage for the feasts of Saint George (Muyser and Viaud, 1979, pp. 58-59).
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.
Within an enclosure wall stand several houses, an inner partition wall setting off the priest's house, and at the east the church, which has a central door and two side doors. The central doorway is decorated with lozenge-shaped bricks set in star patterns. The oldest part of the church is five units wide and three deep, a typical hall church with columns of the medieval period (see Grossmann, 1982, p. 196). There are three sanctuaries flanked by rectangular corner rooms. The sanctuaries are of a local type with straight walls leading to semicircles articulated by niches. Behind the altar in the central sanctuary is a bishop's throne. Domes on squinches cover the two bays in front of the central sanctuary; domes on pendentives, the bays in front of the side sanctuaries. The outer bays are barrel-vaulted. During a second building phase, two bays and a sanctuary were added to both the north and the south sides, making a wide, shallow, seven-by-three-unit interior. Perhaps at this time two corridors were added along the east end, divided by the space containing the bishop's throne (for such corridors in local churches, see DAYR AL-‘ADHRA’ near Akhmim). In front of the central sanctuary stands a finely inlaid wooden iconostasis. The two original side sanctuaries are closed off by brick walls with cross-shaped openings at the top, central doors, and side windows. Header-stretcher construction in fired brick is apparently employed throughout the whole building, at present whitewashed. Hollow tubes admitting sunlight are set into all the domes and vaults, as at Saint Thomas near Akhmim. Several spolia are to be found: a column forms the threshold of the doorway into the immediate forecourt of the church, and stone slabs are used for thresholds in the interior.
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