Abu Mena, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.

Abu Mena was a city, a monastery complex, and a Christian pilgrimage site in ancient Egypt.

Egypt, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.


It is located in the territory of the Governorate of Alexandria, about 45 kilometers southeast of Alexandria. In 1979 the site was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. A few ruins are still standing, but the foundations of the larger buildings are easily recognizable. Here was martyred Saint Mena of Egypt in the 3rd or 4th centuries. Reports from the 5th century show different versions of his burial and subsequent founding of a church dedicated to him. The essentials and almost common to all the chronicles indicate that the body was transported from camel-shaped Alexandria until it came near Lake Mareotis (in the desert). At one point, the camel refused to continue despite all the efforts. This was perceived as a sign of divine will and the body was then buried at that point. The first archaeological excavations were conducted between 1905 and 1907, bringing to light a large basilica, an adjacent church (which probably housed the relics of the saint) and a Roman bath.

Of the popularity of St. Mena’s worship is the great number of ampoules found throughout the Christian world. Decorated with the typical image of the sacred saint between two camels, probably copied by a marble relief attached to the martyr’s grave, these amps were made to Abu Mena and purchased by the faithful, full of oil or miraculous water.

The culminating period of St. Mena’s worship was the fifth and fifth centuries. Under Emperor Zenone (474-491), the town around the sanctuary developed to form a city called the Martiropolis, defended against predatory desert tribes by a garrison of 1200 men. The city certainly contained all the institutes and buildings necessary for the housing and maintenance of pilgrims, and certainly at least one convent offered the presence of fixed staff who could deal with worship and pilgrims and provide for the sale of miraculous water and other sacred objects. Even after the Arab conquest, the shrine was so important to the Alexandria Church’s economy to cause a dispute between the Coptic and Orthodox church on its possession. The excavations have highlighted many secular structures and worship buildings that give us a vivid image of the economic-religious life of a great pilgrimage center of early Christianity.

Abu Mena, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.



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Abu Mena, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.

Abu Mena