The Coptic monastery of Saint Anthony’s lies in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, quite a long way from anywhere, and that, of course, was the point.
Saint Anthony was born into a wealthy family in Lower Egypt circa 251 A.D.. What we know of him comes almost exclusively from a biography written by Athanasius of Alexandria, the Vita Antoni.
Around the age of 34, Anthony gave away all of his worldly goods and ventured into the Eastern Desert to seek a humble, spiritual and solitary life. Making his home in a cave, he is regarded as one of the first Christian monks and a father of monasticism.
The Monastery of Saint Anthony was built between 361-63 A.D., during the reign of Julian the Apostate. The monks still lived in individual cells, but came together for worship and for meals. Over time, the more communal approach came to the fore.
The modern monastery is self-contained and includes five separate churches,
The Church of the Apostles, dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, was renovated in 1772 A.D.. The church has twelve domes. Nine of the domes cover the nave and the other three are over the sanctuaries which are hidden by wooden screens. In 2005, several monk’s cells dating back to the 4th century were discovered under the church.