Deir al-Surian — monastic church

Project of the University of Warsaw and University of Amsterdam:

„A Cross-section in Time: The Church of the Holy Virgin in Deir al-Surian – an integrated analysis of the building, its paintings and inscriptions.”, financed by NCN (2015/18/M/HS3/00621).

Person conducting excavation: dr Karel Innemée i dr Dobrochna Zielińska
Site: Monastery of the Syrians (Deir al-Surian), Wadi Natrun, Egypt
Type of the site: monastic church
Datowanie: 7th – 21st century

A thorough investigation of the architecture and interior decoration of the church of the Holy Virgin in Deir al-Surian (Egypt) with the aim of reconstructing the most important stages in the development of the building between its construction in the middle of the 7th century and the present. The building has undergone a number of architectural modifications and, partly in connection with this, has been re-decorated up to four times since the 7th century. Two important stages (10th and 13th centuries) can be dated to the period when the monastery was inhabited by a Syriac community. This involves important influences from Syriac culture on the monastic milieu in Egypt, an aspect that will be an important part of the research.

The layer of 18th century undecorated plaster that covers large parts of the interior are removed to uncover the stratification of mural paintings and inscriptions of various kinds that can be expected underneath. Apart from that, evidence of architectural modifications can be expected. The documentation and analysis of this material should lead to a new insight in the development of the building and its decoration, leading to conclusions concerning its use and the changes in the church. The iconography of the paintings is analysed on the basis of texts (mainly wall inscriptions accompanying the paintings, but also liturgical, patristic and other kinds of written sources) and comparison with contemporary paintings elsewhere.

The research is multidisciplinary in its approach (architecture, iconography of the paintings, epigraphy and liturgy) and for this reason specialists with a reputation in their fields have been invited to participate. This has led to establishing a cooperation between University of Amsterdam and University of Warsaw. The Dutch side in this project also collaborates with specialists from universities in the USA (Duke), Belgium (Louvain-la-Neuve) and Germany (Bonn).