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St. Simeon Monastery
(Monastery of Anba Hatre)


Those on a fairly standard tour of Egypt that includes the Aswan area will most likely visit St. Simeon (Deir Anba Sim'an), the monastery otherwise known as Anba Hatre. It is very likely that this will also include their one substantial camel ride (about 15 minutes), which is how these ruins, located some one thousand two hundred meters from the west bank oppose the southern tip of the island of Elephantine, are usually accessed. The monastery was given the name St. Simeon by archaeologists and travelers, but earlier Arabic and Coptic sources called it Anba Hatre (Hidra, Hadri, Hadra), after an anchorite who was consecrated a bishop of Syene (now Aswan) by Patriarch Theophilus (385-412 AD).

Even though much of the monastery is in ruins, many of its main features are well preserved. It is of considerable architectural interest, for the church provides the most important example of an oblong, domed Christian church in Egypt and the keep, or tower, which served as a permanent residential complex, is the most developed of its kind. Furthermore, the large number of tombstones in the monastery cemetery are invaluable sources for the study of early Christian tombstones in the Nile Valley, and the kilns of the monastery have also proven significant for research into archaic Aswan pottery.

 

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