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The Egyptian Roots of Egyptian Monasticism and Its Impact on Christian Monasticism

Rachad Mounir Shoucri

Abstract


One of the original contributions of Egyptian Christianity has been the emergence of the anchoritic and coenobitic form of monasticism, of which the impact on the Christian world has been tremendous. Egypt in the fourth century was the most important Christian pilgrimage destination after Jerusalem. The ampullae of St. Menas have been found from the shores of the British Isles to Samarkand in Central Asia. The teachings and names of Egyptian monks have been immortalized in the writings of foreign visitors like John Cassian, Jerome, Palladius, Rufinus, Evagrius, Eusthatius and Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Sozomen, Egeria of Spain and many others. The two first monastic rules of the Latin world come in a direct line from Egypt: the Rule of the Four Fathers introduced at Lérins by St. Honorat after his return from a trip to the East and the Rule of Thagaste in North Africa introduced by Bishop Alypius after his trip to the same area; both rules are based on the Rule of Pachomius. Ancient documents indicate that Egyptian monks in the fourth–fifth centuries were well educated; they excelled not only in the spiritual life but also in intellectual, manual and social activities. If there were illiterate monks, they were the exception rather than the rule. 


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