Coptic Monasticism

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Coptic Monasticism

The Coptic Church is the mother of Christian monasticism, with the father of all monks being Saint Antonious (Anthony) the Great (270 AD).

The strongest flourishing of monastic life in Egypt occurred during the 4th and 5th centuries, and again during the monastic revival since the beginning of the 19th century.

Patriarchs and Bishops of the Coptic Church must be monks.

There are 3 main styles of Coptic monasticism:

1)      The style of Saint Anthony – the Hermitic style of monasticism.

2)      The style of Saint Bakhomius – the Synobetic style of monasticism. The Synobetic style was known as “ora et labora” (“pray and work together”) by the Benedictines. This style was established in Upper Egypt at the beginning of the 4th century, and transferred to the Western churches after that.

3)      Following the above style, was the style of Saint Macarius the Great – the style of “laura or colostar”. This style meant that small monasteries would each contain an elder monk and 2 or 3 disciples. These small monasteries would all then meet together every Saturday and Sunday.

The principles of the Christian monastic life are: celibacy, poverty and obedience, which continued from generation to generation through spiritual discipleship.

The monastic style of life was spread to Europe by the European pilgrims who lived amongst the monastics and wrote about the Coptic Monastic life in the Egyptian deserts, and via the Coptic monks or bishops who travelled to Europe. Saint Athanasius the Great was one of these, who published his book about Saint Antony’s life which has had a strong monastic influence in Europe.


As related by His Eminence Metropolitan Dr. Anba Abraham. All rights reserved.

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