Monastery of Saint Samuel
by Jimmy Dunn
Born in 597 AD in the city of Daklube, St. Samuel spent most his early years in the Macarius Monastery at Wadi el Natrun. It is said that he was a disciple of Abba Aghathon, and that God gave him the gift of healing and performing miracles. He worked diligently at studying the scriptures, meditating and praying with his teacher, as well as probably worked the land as did St. Marcarius three centuries earlier.
Problems between the Western and Eastern Christian churches existed at this time, resulting in considerable conflict, including a foreign Pope being installed in Alexandria. Military unites were sent to the Monastery of St. Macarius. Samuel was among the monks arrested, and later beaten almost to his deal because he refused the decision of the council of Chalcedony. After these events, Samuel left the monastery accompanied by four other monks and traveled to Mount Kalamoun (Qalamon) in the region of the Fayoum Oasis where they established a small monastery. Dedicated to the Virgin, this monastery named for St. Samuel continues to flourish even today.
During the life of St. Samuel, the monastery flourished, though it was apparently ravaged on several occasions by the Berbers. Legend has it that the saint was captured several times by the Berbers. Yet it is believed that at his death in 693, the monks of the monastery numbered between 120 and 200, and that there were twelve churches.
We here various reports of the monastery throughout the centuries. In the 11th century, Abu-Salih, an Armenian reports that the monastery had twelve churches and four towers. He also tells us of a devout monk who lived in a nearby cave, and that there were a total of 130 monks inhabiting the monastery at that time.
In the 13th century, Yakout the Romainian, a well known geographer, stated in his geographical dictionary that the monastery was famous and well known to people. However, in the 15th century, another report comes to us from El-Makrizi who reports only two tower, but he makes no mention of churches. There are few records between the 16th and 19th centuries, but we know that sometime during this period the monastery declined and the buildings fell into ruin as it was deserted by the monks. In 1819, Belzoni visited the monastery and discovered that it was deserted. He records finding a very large church and convent, and tells us of well preserved painting on the walls.
Late in the 19th century, Father Issac El-Baramousy, along with a few other monks came to live at the monastery. They began to rebuild the old monastery, which he headed between 1895 and 1938. Currently, Father Basilios is Bishop and Abbot of the Monastery.
Today, the monastery has five churches, including the Church of the Virgin Mary, The Church of St. Samuel, The Church of St. Missael, the Church of the Angle Michael, and the Church of St. Mina the Martyr