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Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt$
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Gawdat Gabra and Hany Takla

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9789774166631

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774166631.001.0001

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The Cave of John of Lykopolis

The Cave of John of Lykopolis

(p.255) 23 The Cave of John of Lykopolis
Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt

Jochem Kahl

American University in Cairo Press

John of Lykopolis (310/320–394/395) was a seer and prophet who lived as an ascetic and recluse in a cave in the western mountain of Asyut (Greek: Lykopolis). Many people consulted him, including Emperor Theodosius who trusted in John to foretell his future. This chapter describes new archaeological discoveries that found the famous three cells that literary sources claim were used by St. John of Lykopolis. As a result of the identification of Tombs II, III, and IV as the hermitage of St. John, a cross-cultural continuity in relation to the veneration of saints becomes evident: the owners of Tombs III and IV (or possibly of the neighboring Tomb V), Iti-ibi and Khety, were venerated as saints in the second millennium BC. Their tomb inscriptions formed part of the cultural memory of ancient Egypt as late as the second century AD, as findings of papyri in Tebtynis in the Fayoum attest. The tombs with their function as memorial sites for ancient Egyptian saints also served as memorial sites for a Christian saint, and the fact that Dayr al-Meitin was constructed in close vicinity to Tombs II, III, and IV in the fifth century AD, that is, immediately after the death of St. John, is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Keywords:   John of Lykopolis, Asyut, tombs, caves, Iti-ibi, Khety, ancient Egyptian saints

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