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St. Simeon Monastery

The Monastery is located behind a hill , in the West Bank of Aswan , in front of Elephantine Island . It is usually visited by tourists taking a camel tour .

The real name of the monastery is Anba Hadra . It was founded by an anchorite who was consecrated a bishop of Syene by Patriarch Theophilus (385-412 AD) . The tradition tells that just after his marriage at the age of eighteen , he encountered a funeral procession . This inspired him to preserve his chastity and he decided to be a disciple of Saint Baiman

He also dedicated his life to the studying of the life of Saint Antony . Anba Hadra died during the time of Theodosius I .
The monastery was built during the sixth or seventh century and it was reconstructed during the eleventh century . It suffered great damage during the Ayyubid rule (12th century) as their troops were following the Fatimides who escaped to Nubia .

Travelers tell that during the 13th century , Anba Hadra was once one of the biggest monasteries in Egypt . May be it was abandoned because of lack of water or because of the attacks of the Nubians .
The monastery is built around a cliff that separates it into two levels , all surrounded by asix meter high wall of limestone and unbaked bricks , which once had towers and lookouts .

The upper terrace can be reached by a stairway , from the north wall of the church . It consisted of a large keep with individual cells for the monks , a refectory , a kitchen and several workshops that had provided a permanent living quarters for the monastic community .

The Lower entrance of the Lower terrace lies under the east wall beneath a defensive tower opening to a vestibule with a barrel vaulted roof that leads into the monastery .
The terrace has the original rock caves of the saints , the church with its baptistery , and lodging for pilgrims .

The church was built in the tenth century . Only the lower part of the church survived , however it still give us an important example of a domed oblong church , similar to the Fatimid architecture of the epoch .

The plan of the church consists of a nave , two side aisles and two octagonal domes . The room at the east end of the south aisle served as a baptistery . At the west end of the north aisle of the church , the structure rests against the rock which delimits the lower terrace . In this place there is an ancient Egyptian rock tomb that was used by the monks .

Most of the paintings of the eleventh and twelfth century on the walls are destroyed , but we can still observe on the dome scenes of the Christ and angels .
On the north wall , there are still some paintings representing the Elders of Revelation and on the west side of the church , there is a painting representing the Virgin Mary .
The ceiling of the grotto is adorned with geometrical designs that date back to the sixth or seventh century .

The cemetery of the monastery is considered a great source of information about early Christians , their conditions and their habits . The remains of the monastery are also a great treasure for archaeologists and historians , as , though much of the monastery are ruins , many of its basic features are still well preserved .