introduction : two monasteries


early structures


Of the four present day monasteries in the Wadi Natrun, Deir al-Baramus (Monastery of the Romans) is the northernmost. The name of this monastery is based on the story of the saints Maximus and Domitius, two legendary sons of the Roman emperor Valentianus, who allegedly retired in this area as followers of Saint Macarius (300-390 AD). After the death of the two Romans, Macarius dedicated a place to their commemoration, something mentioned by both Palladius and Serapion, to whom the vita of Macarius is attributed.
The area of present day Deir al-Baramus is, according to these sources, the oldest place of monastic settlement in the Wadi Natrun. Next to the present monastery of Baramus, a low mound containing the remains of what is commonly reffered to as Deir Abu Musa al-Aswad (monastery of Moses the Black), named after who lived in this area in the time of St. Macarius. The historian Maqrizi described in the 15th century the eleven monasteries remaining in his time. One of these, the monastery of the Holy Virgin of Baramus, had a close neighbor called the Monastery of Moses the Black, also called Baramus. Travelers of the 17th century report that only four monasteries remain in the Wadi Natrun, the same ones that still exist today. The Monastery of Moses the Black must have been deserted somewhere between the middle of the 15th and the beginning of the 17th century.
The excavations have shown that the now ruined monastery is the older of the two, and that it was the original Deir al-Baramus. The present day monastery with the same name was probably founded at the end of the sixth century, when a difference of opinion caused discord among the monks of Wadi Natrun. The so-called heresy of Julian of Halicarnassus resulted in the falling apart of several communities in a "heretic" and an "orthodox" part, the latter founding a new monastery nearby. In the same way Deir al-Sourian was founded next to Deir Anba Bishoi, the monastery of the Virgin of Baramus was built close to the original Deir al-Baramus, later erroneously called Deir Mussa al-Aswad.

Deir al-Baramus
two monasteries
the excavations
the team