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With Kellia is an Egyptian Christian hermits settlement of the western part of the Nile Delta , about 60 to 80 km southeast of Alexandria and about 30 km south of Damanhur , respectively. The Kellia encompasses a hilly area of ​​over 100 km² along the Al-Nubanya Canal, which connects the western arm of the Nile with the Mareotisee near Alexandria, outside the then built-up land.

In addition to the Natrontal (Wadi an Natrun) in the south and the Nitria in the north Kellia is one of the areas in the Sahara foothills ( Wadi El Natrun ) southwest of the Nile Delta between Alexandria and Giza , where in the first half of the 4th century, one of the basic forms of Christian monasticism developed, namely that of the hermit community. Christians withdrew here, following the example of St. Anthony , to renounce the world in asceticism . The Kellia was discovered in 1964 by the French archaeologist Antoine Guillaumont (1915–2000) and explored through excavations for over 25 years . It is one of the archaeologically most important sites of early Christian monasticism in Egypt, as the remains of the monk cells have been well preserved in the desert sand and have not been destroyed by agricultural use and irrigation. In Egyptian-Arabic the cells are called Qusur (plural of Sing. Ksar ), small castles or fortifications, because the monks wanted to protect themselves from unwelcome visitors and robbers with small fortified walls around their hermitages .

The foundation of the monastic settlement Kellia has been handed down in legend . It was founded in 338 by the Antonius student Ammon , around 288–356, who founded Nitria about ten years earlier, on the occasion of Antonius' visit to Ammon in Nitria. Ammon told his teacher about the great hustle and bustle in Nitria and that it would be unbearable here for him and some of the monks who were looking for more peace and seclusion. Antonius suggested that after lunch at the 9th hour (maybe in the afternoon around 3 o'clock) a hike into the southern desert, out of the built-up area of ​​the Nile Delta, should be undertaken. After three hours, when it got dark, they came to the new site and set it as the new settlement site. The individual hermitages were built at a large distance from each other and fortified with wall rings. Churches were also built where the monks met on Saturdays and Sundays for worship and communion.

Up to 600 monks and their students settled in the new hermit settlement at the end of the 4th century, and more than 1,500 cells were laid out by the 6th century. Since the 7th century, the population has declined due to dogmatic disputes, many nomad attacks and the Islamization of Egypt; in the 9th century this settlement was also completely abandoned.


  • Martin Krause: Comments on late antique and Coptic Egypt. In: Egypt: Treasures from the desert sand. Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 1996.
  • Hans Conrad Zander : When religion wasn't boring. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2001.

Coordinates: 30 ° 46 ′ 34 ″  N , 30 ° 22 ′ 8 ″  E