The first Christian church in Egypt is thought to be the one of Virgin Theometor, which was built in front of the port of Alexandria and was used as cathedral. Since then the country acquired convents, sketes, hermitages, in the Delta of the Nile, in the central Egypt, in Thivais and elsewhere. Concurrently the catacombs, places of burial were created during the persecutions, which also served as places of worship, in Alexandria and in the environs. There the temples were connected with Christianity, the Ceasarium, the Serapium and the Arcadium, in Alexandria. Ceasarium is the most famous where the first Patriarchs of Alexandria were elected and enthroned. There the philosopher Hipatia was murdered. Finally in 642 it became a Coptic church.
Holy Convent of St. Savas (Alexandria)
According to Eugene Michaelides, the first chronicler, who mentions the church and the convent of St. Savas of Alexandria, is Patriarch Euthychios (877-940). He informs us that St. Savas' convent was also used as the Cathedral of the Patriarchate during the period of the high in numbers Greek presence in Egypt during the 20th century. He mentions that the Christians Melhites (the Orthodox Christians, from the time of Byzantium) used to go to that church. Like the old monasteries, it was not only a place of worship, but it was also cemetery, hospital, school, guesthouse and, of course, cenobitic monastery. Meletios Pigas is the first, who reorganized the monastic life and the School of the Greek studies, which worked in the convent. This particular convent was also used as health board and shelter for the persecuted. During its early years the Monastery was dedicated to St. Mark and between 870 and 940 AD, it gained its first name- St. Savas'. After Meletios Pigas death his successors took care of the convent. The church and its surroundings consist really a monument of the Greek orthodox presence of Egypt. It is a pity that its architectural magnificence was lost after its renovation during the 1970's. The church is a source of history for the Greeks in Egypt during the time when the communities and the guilds settled there. Historical sources are also the inscriptions on tombs, the icons, the brief historical background of the churches which all referred to Hellenism, to its relations with Bonaparte and other useful elements which, Eugene Michailides, made known to us systematically. In 1843 the assembly of the first members-founders of the Greek Community of Alexandria took place in this Convent the great day of its foundation and the announcement of the statute by the first members.
Alexander Rizos Rangavis (1809-1892) describes the convent as follows: "To κατάστημα, μάλλον ταπεινόν, απομεμονωμένον και περιτείχιστον έχει τι το μεσαιωνικόν και μονοτονικόν, εκ πρώτης όψεως εμπνέον ευλάβειαν, ήν επιτείνει η θεά των πληροΰντων αυτό κληρικών, και κορυφοΐ η εν τη βαθεία και αμυδρώς φωτιζόμενη αιθοΰοη συνάντησις μετά του γεραροϋ τα έτη, αλλά νεαρού μάλλον την όψιν Πατριάρχου Σωφρονίου (1888)".
From time to time and until our days some renovations have taken place, unfortunately, not always with the proper respect to the history of the interior and exterior of the
church. Really the frescoes and the wall painting are extraordinary. Painters mainly from Crete are its creators: Ioannis Cornaros, George Kastrophilax, Demetrios Moschos, John Papas, John Anagnostis (Rodios) etc. The church of St. Savas has been used by some Patriarchs for their relation and enthronement until our days.
Holy Convent of St. George (Old Cairo)
Definitely, the adornment of the Orthodox world in Egypt is the convent of St. George in Old Cairo. According to Eugene Michailides, "the history of the convent is lost in the darkness of the first three centuries after the consolidation of Christianity". According to the chroniclers (Eutychios and Seviros 12th century), there were two churches of Melhites and Copts in Babylon of Cairo. The Orthodox church of St. George was used as a hospital, asylum, old people's house, hotel, poorhouse, school, cemetery, shelter of the persecuted like St. Savas' of Alexandria. Like the second one, St. George had been partly destroyed by the Arabic invasion of Egypt (7th century) and later but finally it was handed over to the Copts. But in 9th century it was renovated with the other Christian churches and institutions. Later it ;was embellished and was given to the Orthodox people. Finally since Meletios Pigas time the Convent of St. George has been part of the patriarchal care of the Church of Alexandria until today.
The convent had the same luck with the Patriarchate to exist in difficulties and hardships. During Sofronios patriarchy (1870-1899), the life of the convent was improved. In the period of Photios it was rebuilt from its basis (1904-1909). In 1904 it was set on fire and the church was destroyed. The whole Greek quarter of Cairo and generally of Egypt contributed to its restoration.
The Convent includes the church of St. George, the church of St. Theodor, the church of St. Tessaraconda, the Abbot's quarters, the cemetery, the chapel of the flight in Egypt, aqueduct, towers, catacombs etc. It has frontiers with the Coptic convent of St. George and the Museum.
In 1930 the archaeologists excavated and discovered wells full of water towers, walls etc. In 1943 it was rebuilt again with donations of Theodore Kotsikas, son of Polychronis, and his wife Despina Benaki, Alexander's daughter. Most of the Patriarchs of Alexandria were, and are still, buried in the convent except those, who were buried in the convent of St. Savas in Alexandria.
In the Convent the visitor can see two important Museums. The first is named Hagiographic Ecclesiastical Museum, which includes icons, doors, sculptures etc. George Sotiriou describes it. The second is a "new roman" and byzantine Museum and includes cells, decorative works, chapels etc, gallery etc. All are remains, of many Christian churches in Egypt. Finally the Convent has an important library.
Other churches in the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria is St. Nicholas, in Cairo, where are the headquarters of the Trustee of Cairo, and of the Bishop of Babylon, who was the Patriarchal Trustee of Cairo as well. The ancient church of St. Mark of the Orthodox people, also in Cairo and St. Nicholas in the mouth of Delta in Rosete, in Rashid. Plenty of churches in whole Africa, included Egypt belong to the near Greek Quarters, for instance, the church of the Virgin Annunciation in Alexandria, of St. Constantine and Helen in Cairo, of the Transfiguration in P. Sait, of St. Minas in Ismailia, of St. Catherine in Suez, to refer to some of the important ones.
Side by side with the Greek orthodox monuments of Christian religion and art we should make a brief reference of some important Coptic ones.
St. Mark of Copts in Cairo roofs the headquarters of the Coptic Patriarchate of Egypt which enumerates a flock over 12 million. The convent of St. Mark in Abu Mena is also important, in the southwest of Alexandria, exactly next to the excavated place of the ancient early Christian Basilicas of St. Minas. There are other monasteries and religious places of Copts spread in Egypt and mainly in Upper Egypt, in the areas of Minia and Assiut.
But the most glamorous are the ancient Coptic convents of Nitria, Wadi Natrun, and of the area of the Red Sea. In the route from Alexandria - Cairo the traveler meets a lot of oasis and a little far away from them the area of Wadi Natrun and the Red Sea. In Natrun the inhabitants collect the natural natrio, which has been produced for ages. This area has given its name to the monuments that have been there ages and ages.
Since the 2nd century AD St. Frondon settled on this earth, in the 3rd century Ammon and in the 4th Makarios who founded the most important Convent of the Copts in the area. Finally since the 6th century, Nitria has been the heart of Monophytisism in the East Church.
The Convent of St. Makarios was built in 5th century while its peak starts from 6th century. That time 3500 monks were living in solitude and the convent was a spiritual and ecclesiastical center. The convent marked out Patriarchs, Saints and important Christians. Today the building complex is very big and includes churches and chapels. It is built according to the conditions of living in the desert, which are very hard. In the same climate are the other convents of the area as well the Convent of Syrian or of Virgin, the Convent of Bigamous and the Convent of St. Palsies.
The visitor can find the area of the Copts important and of spiritual weight in Babylon of Cairo. On the remains of the ancient town, exactly near the Convent of St. George of the Greek orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. Today there is a famous Coptic museum, which offers a different glitter to the area. In the same place there is a Jewish synagogue and remains of roman fortification art, and of course, the important presence of St. George with an old history and the Greek cemetery as well. In the heart of Old Cairo the religions that are interlaced with the Islamic life and reality seem to share the same living quarters.
1.- Patriarchal Library of Alexandria
According to the research and the Catalogues the Patriarchal Library had an adventurous history, together with the rest of the administrative potential of the Patriarchate. It was keeping up all the movements of the ecclesiastical body from Alexandria to Cairo and vice versa. We know that the library and the rest of the articles and documents, which were saved by its development, were in Cairo in Haret el Rum and from 1830 in Hamzoui, with Patriarch's Ierotheos the 1st initiative in the same town until 1928. Since then the Library works in Alexandria, where in 1947 it was settled in a wider place in Amvrosios Ralli Street, in the suburb of Ibraimia. From 1972, until today, it is in the place, where the official headquarters of the Patriarchate are, always in Alexandria, in the building of the old Tositsas' School.
The course of the library starts in the 2nd century AD. It had always the bad luck of damages and distractions. But it existed until the 19th century, as Ierotheos the 1st (1844)
refers: "The school, the Patriarchate and the famous Library, which contained more than seventy thousand books, the archives and the codex were lost in fire according to many historians' evidences".
The main core of the Library is a work of the first fifty years of 17th century, and has been remained the same until today. It is a work of the Patriarchates Meletios Pigas, Cyril Loukaris, Gerasimos Spartaliotis, Metrophanes Kritopoulos, Nikiforos Klarouzanos, Ioannikiou Diodios and Maximos Peloponnissios. But the person "who enriched the Patriarchate of Alexandria with books," according to the codes, was Metrophanes Kritopoulos. He brought interesting books from Western Europe, which consisted the main trunk of the Library, according to G. Karras. In 1905, the Library was in danger of fire, as the hierodeacon Christopher, the later Metropolite of Axum and Leontopolis and later Patriarch. In 1918 Meletios Metaxakis entrusted the reorganization of the Library to Th. Volides, who handed over his consideration about this subject in 1930.That time N. G. Phiripides was an appointed librarian and in 1942 another one this time appointed by Christopher, Th. D. Moschonas. His successor was Demetrios Moschonas, who in our days retired.
The hieroteacher Gregory Palladas in 1859, O. Schneider, V.Gardehausen with Gregory Mazarakis, A. Papadopoulos Kerameus and Th. D. Moshonas drew up lists of books with a variety in their content also the codex, the manuscripts, and the archives, which include Arabian and Turkish documents, and old self-contained publications, magazines, newspapers, diaries, albums, dictionaries etc. Contemporary donors of the library were G. Kipiades, Alexander Kasdaglis, Panagiotis Aristofron, famous of other donations as well in Egypt, Greece (excavations in the Academy of Plato and the Academy of Athens). There were also C.Pagonis, Gennadios etc from the side of clergy.
In 1952 (16-19 November) the millennium of the Library was celebrated with great splendor and with the presence of intellectuals and clergy from Egypt, Greece and other places, whoever was famous was there (Vatican, Escorial, British Library, Congress Library, Paris Library, Universities etc.). The expatriate Greeks of Egypt and the authorities of the Patriarchate were present, of course. On the occasion of the celebration " The Institute of The Eastern Studies was founded in the Patriarchal Library."
2.- Seminary "Saint Athanasios"
In 1926 Meletios Metaxakis had the initiative of estabhsbing a seminary. So "the Seminary of St. Athanasios" had been working for ten years. It had as model seminaries of Greece. It was lodged in the building of the Melahrineion Schools in Helioupolis, in Cairo. The administrative council had as a chairman the later Patriarch Nicholas Evangellides and director the archimandrite Christodoulos. In 1928 J. Papadopoulos was an appointed director, director of "Anaplasis" and of the Civil Schools of Arsakeio in Athens. In 1932 the Greek Ministry of Education admitted that seminary equivalent to the Seminary of the Holy Convent of Vellas. It was a foundation of higher theological and educational learning. Arabian and Greek speakers studied there. Some of them became clergymen, others simple citizens. As teachers, they manned the Greek primary schools of the Greek community of Egypt.
In 1932 the first boarders of the seminary graduated. In 1938 we find the foundation under the name "Serninary Institute". With relevant announcement the graduates of the third class were accepted for a two years course of theological studies (1938-1940). It is obvious that the Patriarchate was responsible for the education and the support of the young stu-
dents. Since 1938 the ordination was obligatory even before the students' graduation.
In the Patriarchal Historical Archive there are series of documents, which refer to the planned foundation of "the Ecclesiastical Academy of the Greek orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria" or the "Patriarchal Academy". There is the suggested regulation of work and the management, and the rich correspondence of P. Aristofronos and his wife Joana, nee Kazouli, to Meletios Metaxakis. The couple of these benefactors were ready to undertake the expense for the establishment of this institution, which never worked.
3.- The Patriarchal Orphanage
In 1926 Meletios Metaxakis and the Holy Synod decided to found the "Asylum of the orphanhood", which accepted 64 orphans and was roofed temporarily in the building of the Melahrineion Schools and of the Metropolis of Memphis. During the inauguration and the blessing the same year George and Athina Spetseropoulos and Dimitrios Spetseropoulos, businessmen of Cairo, announced to Patriarch that they were going to build with their own expenses an imposing foundation, which exists in our days, as well, the known Spetseropouleio Orphans House, with potentiality of roofing 250 children. In 1928 the benefactors came back to Meletios and agreed to merge the Asylum with the orphanage, with a common administration (Patriarchate, Spetseropoulos etc). In 1929 the administration was entrusted to an administrative committee. So the work of its important foundation began under the patriarchal supervision in this way.
Today as it is reported, the building has been renovated and the Greek education of Cairo is roofed there. The Achillopouleio Primary School, of the Greek Community of Cairo and the Abeteio School, High School and Lyceum. Abeteio is supervised by the Holy Convent Of Sinai.
4.- The Institute of Eastern Studies of Patriarchal Library
In 1952, as it is reported, this institute was founded for the purpose of promoting the Eastern Studies. The Church of Alexandria had focused its interests on the relations with the Coptic Patriarchate and with the other dogmas in the East, as well. Presidents of the institute were the late prelates Athanasios of Mareotidos, the later Patriarch Parthenios the 3rd and Varnavas of Pelousion, while its soul was the dear departed Theodore Moschonas, who assisted it with important intellectual people of the quarter of Egypt. Unfortunately since the people above died especially Moshonas, the foundation does not work. But it had already worked more than 30 years with demonstrations and mainly the publication of the magazine "Analekta" whose diligence had Moschonas himself. The fist volume of its second period was published recently.
5.- Schools of the Patriarchate in modern times
a. In Alexandria during the decades from 1930 until 1950 "The Patriarchal School
Photios the 1st" was working. It also supported the primary and high school, under the
care of the Patriarchate. Unfortunately these schools were not recognized by the Greek
public, as it happened with the schools of the Community. Compulsorily its work had
stopped before the great dwindling of Hellenism in Egypt. The Church of Alexandria was
supported by the "Lyceum of Pythagoras" and" the Patriarchal Alexandrian Lyceum" in
the same town, which do not work today.
b. In 1944 the "Patriarchal School of Shubra" was founded in the densely populated
with Greeks area of Shubra in Cairo. It was working until 1964 and was of the primary level. The "Fond Educational Union of the Patriarchal School" was receiving the care and support of the Patriarchate. The School served really the necessities of a great part of the Greeks in Alexandria.
6.- The Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary "Archbishop of Cyprus Makarios the 3rd"
This seminary constitutes a Christian oasis in the heart of the African continent and happily is called seminary. It has the name of the leader of the nation of Cyprus Archbishop Makarios the 3rd. Makarios was the introducer and the factor that set in movement the financial grant for the foundation of this bright carrier by the Patriarchate of Alexandria. It is roofed in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi. It has been based on the prototype of other seminaries. It prepares counterfoils, which will contribute to the expansion and the consolidation of the Orthodoxy in Africa. The perspective and the target are the introduction of the theological and the orthodox Christian reason in the hearts of the students of the School with the most creative way, a fact that has already taken place in a perfect way for years.
7.- The Metokhi of the Patriarchate in Odessa.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria owns a metokhi in Odessa where are the headquarters of the Patriarchal Exarchia with corresponding institution in Alexandria. This metokhi had in its jurisdiction the famous church of St. Nicholas in the above mentioned town, which was demolished in 1929.During the hard times of the Patriarchate, the Patriarchs and the clergy were looking for financial help in this metokhi and in the Russian church. In 1955, when the Exarchate was exchanged, the church of the Holy Trinity in Odessa was granted to the Patriarchate of Alexandria by the Russian side. Concurrently the Russians have the church of Alexander Nefski in Alexandria, in their jurisdiction. The history of the church of the Holy Trinity starts from Tsarina's Catherine era. She herself supported the church financially. A lot" of Greeks were providers of that same church like the families of Mavrokordatos, Rodokanaki, Gr. Maraslis, the mayor of the town and others. The Patriarch of Constantinople Gregory the 5th was buried in the Metokhi, after his suffering death. Today the Metokhi is used as youth center, or old people's house, also as a center for the study of the Greek language.
8.-Patriarchal Press and Publications
During the first 50 years of the 20th century we can say, that the Patriarchate of Alexandria was, an intellectual pivot, round which the production of the publication of the Greeks of Egypt and of numerous other barriers of art and culture were bursting with vitality. In 1908 it acquired its own printing house, with Patriarch Photios' initiative and recommendations from various others among whom George Arvanitakis was counted-as (an important scholar and writer of his time). That intellectual had already urged Photios to this direction since 1901. In 1908 the publication and the circulation of the two important magazines of the Patriarchate "Pantainos", and the "Ekklesiastikos Pharos" had started. The publication still exists in our days.
"Pantainos" is the official bulletin with the chronicle of the patriarchal and the other church activities in Africa monthly or bi- or trimestrial. Articles and research works of theological and historical content are also published in it.
The "Ekklesiastikos Pharos" is the official scientific review of the Patriarchate. There were published and continue to be published very important scientific researches of the theological, historical, and literary content, so that the magazine continues to be of validity during the 20th century.
The first director of these two patriarchal magazines was the later Professor of the University of Athens Gregory Papamichail and then Eugene Michailides and Theodore Moshonas. From time to time "Pantainos" was directed by the Father Economos A. Karageorgiou and the Theologian G. Triantaphillakis. The "Ekklesiastikos Pharos" was directed by Methodios Phougias ex-Metropolite of Axum and Thyareira and now of Pissidia. Today both are directed by a committee, which is consisted of the prelates of the Patriarchate and Professors of the University. Its worth to be mentioned here the fact that very important intellectual and academicians were cooperated with these magazines like Chrysostomos Papadopoulos the later Archbishop of Athens, Leonidas Philippides, Professor of the University of Athens, prelates of validity from the Patriarchates and from other Christian dogmas as well.
As mentioned above a third review is published in second period, the "Analekta" under the direction of this present essay's author.
The Patriarchate printed and circulated among the flock the magazines "The Good Shepherd" and the "Holy Preaching". A very important fact is that the Patriarchal Printing house printed numerous of books of famous scientists with international validity of religious, historical and literary content. It also published books of literature, a fact that made it one of the most important publishing houses of Egypt, Africa and the Middle East.
The Metropolis of Axum during the decade of 1970-1980 with the care of the Metropolite Methodios was publishing the magazine "Aba Salama". Its content was the relations in Christianity, generally, between the Patriarchate and the monophysitic dogma, Ethiopian Patriarchate, and other studies, which are of great interest for Christianity internationally.
This is the history of the Patriarchate of Alexandria briefly. Its future is outlined with encouraging perspectives in the African continent. There is a rich field of action in the African area, where continuously positive messages come to inform that there is thirst for the faith of Christ. But the means are small for the work of the mission, which continues to proceed with sincerity, Christian love and enthusiasm.
Historical Archive of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (Alexandria, Cairo, the Metropolis everywhere in Africa and the Association of the Greek Literary and Historical Archive of Athens).
Magazines "Pantainos", "Ekklesiastikos Pharos", "Analekta" etc.
Great Greek Encyclopedia.
Religious and Moral Encyclopedia.
BASIC BIBLIOGRAPHY (According to the chronological series of publication)
N. Phiripides, Historical Note about the Metropolis of Thivais, Alexandria 1903.
Cr. Papadopoulos, The First Days of the Alexandrian Church, Alexandria 1909.
D. Callimahos, The Greek Schools of the Patriarchs of Alexandria During the Turkish Occupation in Cairo, Alexandria 1913.
I. L, The Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, Photios Peroglou, Alexandria 1923.
The Matter of the Syrian Orthodox in the Patriarchate of Alexandria, published under Patriarchal approval, in Alexandria from the Patriarchal Printing House, 1926, ρ 30, - review Pantainos 18 (1926), issues 46, 47, 48.
G. Skalieris, The Patriarchate Of Alexandria, the Climate and its Jurisdiction, Athens 1928.
G. Mazarakis, Contribution in the History of the Orthodox Church in Egypt, Alexandria, 1932.
The Present Situation of the Patriarchate of Alexandria: Compositions, of the Patriarch and Bishops, Alexandria, Patriarchal Print House, 933w, p. 30.
Chr. Papadopoulos, History of the Alexandrian Church, Alexandria 1935.
Eug. Michaelides, The St. George's Convent in Old Cairo, Cairo 1936.
C. Parasyras, About the Holy Church of St. Nicholas in Rahitio, Alexandria 1939.
Th. Moshonas, The Patriarchal Library Through the Ages, Alexandria 1943.
Th. Moshonas, The Inauguration of the Patriarchal Library (14 November, 1948), Bulletin of the Patriarchal Library, no 3, 1948, pp 265 and on.
Th. Moschonas, Lists of the Patriarchal Library, Alexandria 1945-46.
Commemorative Issue for the 40 Years of Prelature of the H. Pope and Patriarch Alex. Christophoros (1908-1948), Alex. 1949.
Th. Moshonas, The Concern of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria During the Turkish Occupation, Alexandria 1949.
Eug. Michailides, The Convent of St. Sava of Alexandria Through the Ages (320-1949), Alexandria 1950.
Anth. Siskos, The Dominant Power in the Orthodox Church and esp. in the Alexandrian one, Alexandria 1950.
Description of the Celebration of the Millennium of the Library 1953, appendix issue of the Patriarchal Library No 4, 1952.
Commemorative.... Holy Convent St. George's in Old Cairo, Alex. 1958.
Christopher's the 2nd the Complete Eorks etc., 1960-1961, vol. a, b.
Eug. Michailides, Panorama (Journalistic Press of the Greeks of Egypt), 1862-1972, Alexandria 1965-1966.
Eug. Michailides, Triptych, the Ecclesiastical Literature in Arabic texts, manuscripts and publishes. Maria as a person, Messiah's mother in the Koran, the Foundations of Islam, Alexandria 1973.
J. Caras, Spiritual Centers During the First Half of the 17th century. The Case of the Patriarchal Library of Alexandria, Exercise Books of Modern Greek Library, 17th-19th centuries, Athens 1987.
E. Soulogiannis, The Greeks in Egypt (19th-20th centuries) Society- Education, Publications, "Ekklesiastikos Pharos", v. 68 (1990-1991), pp. 85 and on.
J. Hatziphotis, Alexandria, the Two Centuries of the Modern Hellenism, 19th-20th centuries, ed. Bastas-Plesas, Athens 1992 and 1999.
Makarios Tyllirides, Deux Rapports du Ministere Francais des Affairs Etrangeres sur le Patriarcat Grec d' Alexandrie, revue "Theologia", vol. 65, 1994, pp. 659 and on.
E. Soulogiannis, The Greek Community of Alexandria 1843-1993, ed. Com. of Greek Literary and Historical Archive, Athens 1994.
Makarios, Bishop of Zimbabwe, Patriarchate of Alexandria, ed. Militos, Athens 1998.
E. Soulogianis, The Situation of Greeks in Egypt. From the Light to the Decline and Fall, ed. Cultural Organization of Athens Municipality, Athens 1999.
Sp. Camalakis, Greece and Russia. Relations of friendship, Culture and Education, Athens 2009.
Sp Camalakis, The Patriarchate of Alexandria and whole Africa..., Athens 2010.
Sp. Camalakis, under publication, a volume about the officers (Archontes) of the above Patriarchate, and a volume on the decorations of the same Patriarchate.