Red Monastery

sights / Religious

Lonely Planet review

The Red Monastery, 4km southeast of the White Monastery and hidden at the rear of a village, is even more extraordinary. Founded by Besa, a disciple of Shenouda who, according to legend, was a thief who converted to Christianity, it was dedicated to St Bishoi. The older of the monastery’s two chapels, the Chapel of St Bishoi and St Bigol, dates from the 4th century AD and some 80% of its surfaces are still covered with painted plaster and frescoes. At the time of writing these were being restored by a team sponsored by the American Research Center in Egypt and USAID. While some of the chapel is hidden by scaffolding, many of the frescoes are now visible. The quality and extent of the surviving work has led this chapel to be likened to the Hagia Sophia in İstanbul as one of the great surviving monuments of late antiquity. The chapel of the Virgin, across the open court, is a more modern and less interesting structure.