By Michael Wood
Last updated 2011-02-17
The Monastery of St Anthony
It's easy to forget that Egypt has a large Coptic Christian population - and a long Christian history, starting with the Bible story of the Holy Family's 'Flight into Egypt'. St Anthony's, near the coast of the Red Sea, is the oldest Christian monastery in the world - the model for Lindisfarne, Glastonbury, and Skellig St Michael.
The church is one of Egypt's great treasures - some of the wall paintings here date from the sixth and the ninth centuries, and among them is a picture of the founder, St Anthony himself. He lived in a tiny cave, high above the desert, for 40 years soon after AD 300, and the monastery - really a city in the desert - was built in the 360s. The monks who live here still speak Coptic, a language descended from the language of the ancient Egyptians.
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