Abu Mena

abu mena

Abu Mena was a town, monastery complex and Christian pilgrimage center in Late Antique Egypt, about 45 km southwest of Alexandria its remains were designated a World Heritage Site in 1979 there are very few standing remains, but the foundations of most major buildings, such as the great basilica, are easily discernible recent agricultural efforts in the area have led to a significant rise in the water table, which has caused a number of the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable the site was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2001 authorities were forced to place sand in the bases of buildings that are most endangered in the site.

abu mena

Menas of Alexandria was martyred in the late 3rd or early fourth century. Various fifth-century and later accounts give slightly differing versions of his burial and the subsequent founding of his church. The essential elements are that his body was taken from Alexandria on a camel, which was led into the desert beyond Lake Mareotis at some point, the camel refused to continue walking, despite all efforts to goad it this was taken as a sign of divine will, and the body’s attendants buried it on that spot.

abu mena

Word of the shepherd’s healing powers spread rapidly the synaxarium describes Constantine I sending his sick daughter to the shepherd to be cured, and credits her with finding Menas’ body, after which Constantine ordered the construction of a church at the site by the late fourth century, it was a significant pilgrimage site for Christians who sought healing and other miracles menas flasks are a particular type of small terracotta ampullae sold to pilgrims as containers for holy water or holy oil which are found very widely around the Western Mediterranean, dating roughly from the century and a half before the Muslim conquest they are cheaply-made but impressed with images of the saint that are of significance in the study of iconography it is presumed they were made around the city.