Desert Monastery opens state of the art Library housing some of the oldest books and manuscripts in the world


Over one thousand years ago two Syrian monks Matthew and Abraham established a Coptic Christian Community in the north east of Egypts’ desert.
Here in the 9th century a library grew containing Gospel manuscripts, various religious texts and theological writings.

Leap forward to May 25th 2013 and a new state of the art Library begun in 2006 will celebrate the continuation of this desert home to priceless manuscripts.

Acclimatised storage conditions, Conservation studios and reading rooms for scholars are housed in a building designed to be in harmony with the original monastery buildings.

Some of the desert Fathers have been trained in Conservation and Preservation Practice both on site and in Conservation Studios of international Museums.

I was privileged to be involved with The Levantine Trust in London who, along with organising training programmes and Conservation seasons at the Monastery, set about raising funds for this huge undertaking.

I will be at the ceremony on Sunday – pictures to follow :)

For more information on the project and the history of Deir al-Surian visit their website.

New Life in the Egyptian Desert for ancient Coptic Manuscripts.




The author getting stuck in the narrow corridors as television crews peer in at some of the manuscripts in the new underground storage facilities.

A state of the art 3 storey building, constructed to blend harmoniously within the Monastery walls c600AD. The Library houses gospel texts, manuscripts, theological and philosophic writings and copies of the Bible inscribed on papyrus and on parchment over 1000 years ago.

Conservation storage facilities underground are conditioned to preserve the collection.

The ground floor rooms house research facilities and a photographic studio for the digitation project about to begin with funding from the Wellness Foundation.

The top floor is a compact and well designed Conservation studio. Work benches have impressive built in light boxes to facilitate the work of Paper Conservators on ancient manuscripts.

It is a fantastic facility, inspirational in its scope and ambition. It will serve to light the way for similar projects in remote places where the worlds heritage is held by communities who open their minds and doors for the benefit of us all.