St Simon Monastery

St Simon Monastery

 built on two levels, St Simon Monastery, covers an area of ninety by one hundred meters,  It is surrounded by a wall over six meters high, with towers facing east.

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This has given rise to speculation that the structure was originally a Roman fortress.

The upper level is made of sun-dried brick and the lower of rough hewn stone sunk into the rock.

The series of vaulted chambers occupying the spacious courtyard probably functioned as storerooms.

The courtyard

itself was possibly a manger for livestock.

Elsewhere are a milling yard, with a massive grinding stone decorated with Coptic crosses, and brick ovens.

The church lies in the southeast of the enclosure.

The roof was originally a series of domes supported by square
pillars.

The domed apse on the east has a well~preserved painting of Christ enthroned.

His hand is raised in benediction; he is flanked by a quartet of angels, two on each side.

The twmain angels have wings, long hair, and splendid robes.

Around the walls are paintings of Saint Michael, Saint George and the archangel Gabriel, and the Twelve Apostles.

A cave leading off from the northwest corner of the chapel is believed to have been the dwelling of the patron saint.

It has painted walls and a decorative ceiling.
At the north ern end of the upper enclosure is a two-storied residence with a large cell~lined hall on the upper level.

The windows, which actually overlook the northern wall, have a splendid view.

Although the monastery has never been reoccupied by monks, an annual mulid is held in honor of the saint,
and a guard will show visitors around.

Large Christian communities are not abundant in Muslim-dominated Egypt.

One of the more populous groups is the garbage scavenging Zabbaleen, who have retained their Coptic beliefs and established the largest Christian church in the Middle East at the Monastery of Saint Simon.

The Zabbaleen (meaning literally “garbage collectors”) village at the base of the Mokattam cliffs began around 1969 when the Cairo governor decided to move all of the garbage collectors to a single settlement.

The garbage collectors were largely Coptic Christians and as their numbers continued to grow over the years the need for a centralized church began to grow.

In 1975, the first Christian church was built in the village but after a large fire broke out nearby, work began on a monastery that was built right into the cliffside.

The Monastery of Saint Simon was the result of this new project.

Simon the Tanner was a craftsman saint who lived during the 10th century and the cave church that was dedicated to him seems as though it might last for 10 more.

Using a pre-existing cave and the slope that led into it, the current monastery seats 20,000 people around a central pulpit.

Other nearby caves have also been built into separate church spaces and all of them have been linked to create a massive Christian complex in the heart of garbage city.

Since tourism through the scavenger’s village is not a thriving industry, reaching the Monastery of Saint Simon is no small feat, yet as the largest Christian church within a handful of countries, hundreds of thousands of people make the pilgrimage each year.

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