3i8 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
forth their sympathy, and began with their paws to scoop out a grave. When Anthony saw
this he was awe-struck, and blessed them, saying, " O Lord, without whose divine providence
no leaf can stir upon the tree, no little bird fall to the ground, bless these creatures according
to their nature, who have thus honoured the dead!" Then Anthony took up the corpse,
wrapped it in the cloak of St. Athanasius, and laid it reverently in the grave.
After this Anthony lived fourteen years, till his one hundred and fifth year. Feeling
at length that his end was near, he summoned his disciples and took leave of them. With a
few monks he retired to a more solitary place. There, having exacted of them a promise that
they would not reveal the place of his burial, whilst they prayed around him, he gently drew
his last breath.
It is to St. Anthony, then, " the father of abbots," and to St. Paul the hermit, that the two
monasteries are dedicated. The Dayr Mar Antonios is reached from the Nile by following a
broad valley called Wady el Arraba, which opens out nearly opposite Benisooef. This valley
takes its name from the carts (araba or aroba, " plaustrum ") which used to carry the provisions
to the two monasteries—but there is also a tradition that it is so called from the chariots of
Pharaoh, who pursued the Israelites down this valley as they fled away to the Red Sea. The
monastery claims to be the oldest in Egypt. The lofty walls enclose an irregular pile of
buildings, as well as a large garden where there are date-palms, carob-trees, &c, and an
abundance of vegetables— for the garden is well watered from a spring which bursts out from
the rock behind the convent. In this spring Miriam, Moses' sister, is said to have bathed at
the time of the Exodus. There are some five or six churches in the convent and a large
twelve-domed church in the garden; in one of these, dedicated to St. Anthony, there are some
very old and curious frescoes. High up in the cliff is the Cave of St. Anthony, from which
there is a grand view of the Egyptian desert, the Red Sea, and the Sinaitic range beyond.
How often in this desert among these barren wastes must have ascended to heaven the
evening hymn and the vesper prayer of monks and hermits. ''Everywhere, all at once,"
suggests Montalembert, " the air echoed the hymns, the prayers, the songs pious and solemn,
tender and joyous, of these champions of the soul and conquerors of the desert.
then the traveller, the pilgrim, and especially the new convert stood still—lost in emotion and
transported with the sounds of that sublime concert—and would cry aloud, " Behold, this is
From Egypt the monastic spirit overflowed into Arabia, Syria, and Palestine. Sinai
was occupied by hermits and monks almost as soon as the Thebaid. The mountain where
God gave His law to Moses was the scene of a constant struggle between Saracen or Arab
and monk. But the destroyers tired sooner than the monks, and in a measure became
converted by the gentle teaching of St. Nilus—the great monastic coloniser of Mount Sinai—
and by the example set them in the piety of his followers.
Tor, with its oasis, seems, as we have said, to have been chosen by the monks for then c
landing-place. Close down to the shore, and also in the hills to the north, are the remains