Monday, October 29, 2007

The Monastery of Mary Mina

Egyptian Gazette

The story will expire shortly on the above address. It is quite a short piece so it has been reproduced here in full:

Egypt is full of Islamic and Christian places of worship. The Monastery of Mari Mina is one such Christian sanctuary, which attracts many thousands of worshippers. Located 35 miles southwest of Alexandria near Borg Al-Arab, where Abu Mina City once stood, the foundation stone of the modern Monastery of Mari Mina was laid by Pope Kyrillos VI of Alexandria in 1959.

The monastery church is 60m long and 26.5m wide.

Built on 15 feddans (acres) of land, the monastery includes a number of churches, a restaurant, a library and some monastic cells. One of these churches contained some of the relics of Saint Mari Mina. Many of his relics are to be found at other churches and monasteries named after him. In the 14th century, the remains of Mari Mina were removed by a Mamluk soldier and taken to a church in Cairo.

Saint Mari Mina was born of Egyptian parents in Verigia, Asia Minor. At the end of third century AD, he joined the Roman Army but escaped from the persecution of Diocletian. Shortly afterwards, he was caught and beheaded for being a Christian. Before his killers could burn his corpse, his friends saved it and put it on the back of a camel, which was allowed to wander off into the desert. Where the camel stopped and knelt down, they buried him. The monastery has become a popular place of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world. As well as a baptistry, there is a graveyard to the north of the monastery.

With the passing of time, a number of houses, palaces and churches came to be built around the monastery. They were made of marble, earning the complex the name 'City of Marble'.Inside the modern monastery, there is a new church under construction and again marble is being used.At one time, following the Arab expansion, 50,000 people lived there and it was the most important place for Christian pilgrimage in Egypt. Muslim pilgrims also visited the monastery, on their way from Libya and other North African countries to the Arabian Peninsula.

At a meeting in Luxor in 1979, UNESCO decided to add the Monastery of Mari Mina to its World Heritage List.

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