The Monastery of St Macarius

An excellent documentary (produced by on the history of the Monastery of St Macarius and its restoration under Father Matta El Meskeen (Matthew the Poor) (with English subtitles provided by young Coptic volunteers), “The Light of the Desert”, can be found at
macarius monastery
See also the companion documentary, “Interview with Father Wadid” (also with English subtitles provided by young Coptic volunteers), at

“The monastery was founded in approximately 360 AD by Saint Macarius of Egypt, who was the spiritual father to more than four thousand monks of different nationalities. From its foundation in the 4th century up to the present day, the monastery has been continuously inhabited by monks. Several Christian saints and fathers of the early Church were monks at the Monastery of Saint Macarius, such as Saint Macarius of Alexandria, Saint John the Dwarf, Saint Paphnutius the Ascetic, Saint Isidore, Saint Arsenius, Saint Moses the Black, Saint Poemen, Saint Serapion and many others.
In 1969, the monastery entered an era of restoration, both spiritually and architecturally, with the arrival of twelve monks under the spiritual leadership of Father Matta El Meskeen. These monks had spent the previous ten years living together entirely isolated from the world, in the desert caves of Wadi El Rayyan, about 50 kilometres south of Fayoum.
Pope Cyril VI ordered this group of monks to leave Wadi El Rayyan and go to the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great to restore it. At that time only six aged monks were living in the monastery and its historic buildings were on the verge of collapsing. The new monks were received by the abbot of the monastery, Bishop Michael, Metropolitan of Assiut.
Under Pope Shenouda III, who was himself busily engaged in restoring the Monastery of Saint Pishoy and the Paromeos Monastery, and after fourteen years of constant activity both in reconstruction and spiritual renewal, the monastic community in the Monastery of Saint Macarius numbers about one hundred monks.
The Monastery of Saint Macarius maintains spiritual, academic and fraternal links with several monasteries abroad, including the monastery of Chevtogne in Belgium, Solesmes Abbey and the Monastery of the Transfiguration in France, Deir El Harf in Lebanon and the Convent of the Incarnation in England.
The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great contains the relics of many saints, such as the Forty Nine Elder Martyrs of Scetes.
During the restoration of the big Church of Saint Macarius, the crypt of Saint John the Baptist and that of Elisha the Prophet were discovered below the northern wall of the church, in accordance with the site mentioned in manuscripts from the 11th & 16th centuries found in the library of the monastery. This is also confirmed by the ecclesiastical tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The relics were gathered in a special reliquary and placed before the sanctuary of Saint John the Baptist in the church of Saint Macarius. A detailed account of this discovery and an assessment of the authenticity of the relics was published by the monastery.”
MonasteryMarcarius the Great
For the Monastery’s own website:
matthew the poor
“Father Matta El Meskeen or Matthew the Poor, born Youssef Iskandar (20 September 1919 – 8 June 2006) was an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox monk. He was the key figure in the revival of Egyptian monasticism which began in 1969 when he was appointed to the Monastery of St Macarius in the Wadi El Natrun in Egypt. By the time of his death the community had grown from 6 aged monks to 130 monks, and many other monasteries had revived, and new ones opened. He was twice nominated to become Coptic Pope, but was not chosen in either case.
Matthew the book
He was also a theologian, and author of 181 books and hundreds of journal articles on Biblical exegesis, Ecclesiastical rites, spiritual and theological matters, and much more. Some of these writings were controversial.”
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see also
For a (poor quality, alas) video of Father Matta El Meskeen talking on “Solitude or the Balance of the Heart” (with English subtitles), see
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For the writings of Father Matta El Meskeen, see and
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For a recording of the Midnight Praises recorded on Friday, July 15, 1977 by 60 monks with the Concluding Absolution of the Fathers by Father Matta El Meskeen:,_Midnight_Praises.html
macarius egypt
St. Makarios the Great - St Maximos - St Domadios
For Saint Macarius the Great, see

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