Sohag and Akhmim Symposium | White Monastery


The Monastery of Saint Shenute, the White Monastery, is located in the Libyan desert, close to the ancient village of Atripe. It is eight kilometers west of Sohag. Saint Begol founded the monastery, where St. Shenute became a monk in 370 and an abbot in 385. During St. Shenute’s tenure, the monastery expanded greatly.

The monastery itself covered ten square kilometers, with thousands of monks and nuns and several communities dependent upon it. It became the most important religious center in the region. After the death of St. Shenute in 464 or 465, his biographer Besa became his successor.

He was succeeded by St. Shenute’s secretary, Zenobios, in 474. The monastery was pillaged in 1167 by invaders. By 1441 the monastery lay in ruins, except the church. In 1908 a small part of the mud-brick enclosure wall, which surrounded the monastery, was unearthed. The enclosure would have covered a wide area and included monk cells, bakehouses, kitchens and other facilities.

In the 1980s, excavations were carried out. A lodging house of several stories for accommodations and storage was discovered to the west of the church. Also discovered was a building with four pillars, which had probably been a refectory, as well as a large kitchen and latrines. The monastery’s church, discussed on page 7, is the most important Christian monument in Upper Egypt.