Exodus


Jews and Christians alike celebrate in these days the Exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea to the East. In the opposite direction from the sea, in the Western Desert, at the edge of al-Kharga oasis and only 1.5 km from the Temple of Hibis, the only Persian sanctuary preserved in Egypt, lays one of the oldest Christian cemeteries, Bagawat.


The remains of the great cemetery of Bagawat lay in eight groups of graves on the hill of Guebel el-Teir. It has been in use probably since the 3rd century A.D., but it started to really grow when a Nestorian Christian community settled near the al-Kharga oasis. And there are still building remains from the 8th century..


It seems that Nestorius (386-451), condemned as a heretic and deposed from his office as a Patriarch of Constantinople by the Council of Ephesus in 431, ended here his hectic life. During an incursion of the Blemmyes he was taken prisoner, and he probably did not survive it. He is very likely to be buried here in Bagawat.


No wonder that Nestorius did not survive the invasion. Of the Blemmyes and other fearsomse tribes in this part of Africa Pliny writes like this:
Some have placed in the middle of uninhabited territory to the Atlanteans, and with it the egipanes, half beasts, the Blemmyes, ganfasantes, satyrs and himantópodas. Atlantis, if we believe what they say, are a degeneration of human customs. In fact, between them there is the use of names and simultaneously view, with terrible imprecations, sunrise and sunset, as something harmful to themselves and their fields, and during sleep do not have the same visions that other mortals. The dig troglodyte caves, these are their houses, eat snake meat and use a whistle, not the voice, to that extent lack the ability to communicate with words. The Garamantians, devoid of marriage, living without fixed rules for women. The Augila worship only the infernal spirits. The ganfasantes, naked and unaware of the war, have no dealings with any stranger. It is said that the lack Blemmyes head and their mouths and eyes fixed on the chest. Satyrs have no human habit, apart from the figure of a man. The appearance of egipanes is as usually painted, the himantópodas are kind of lame whose gait is crawling. The farusios before Persians, are said to be the companions of Hercules on his way to the Hesperides. And with respect to Africa do not occur to me more things worth mentioning (Pliny, Natural History, 5, 44-46)
In Bagawat two funerary chapels show inside the frescos which once decorated their majority. The white plaster decorations once covering the mud bricks are already completely lost. One of the two chapels is called after its vault paintings precisely the Chapel of Exodus, or nowadays often Passover Chapel. There are relatively few explicitly Christian symbols around the cemetery, apart from the Ankh cross, soon adopted bz the Copts as well.








Move the mouse over the images for a smaller view, and click on them forr a larger one.
The first pictures represent the Temple of Hibis, while those below
some frescoes of “the Chapel of the Peace”