Alsourian Church

It is one of the most beautiful Churches in the world, as it is characterized by the beautiful chisels that cover its walls, doors and its domes, especially inside its expanded altar.

It is considered the oldest place in the monastery after Father Bishoy's cave (located in the western part of the Church) and Mar Ephraim El Souriany’s tree, which is located to the east of the Cave's Church in the monastery.

The Sourian Church is from the Bazeleek heritage, which spread in the most Churches of Ancient Egypt. It is similar -to a certain degree- to Father Bishoy's Church. Even though it is smaller than Father Bishoy’s church, the Sourian church is characterized by its detailed chisels and its height.

The Sourian Church's length is about 30 meters, and its width is 12 meters. The first choral section is covered by a high dome. Above its side from the south, there is a half-dome. The inscriptions of the annunciation and the Nativity are found on this half-dome. Above its side from the north, there is another half-dome. On this half-dome, there are the inscriptions of departure of the Virgin Mary as well as the Saviour holding her soul.  In addition, the twelve disciples are depicted around her. There are also Sourian and Coptic writings on these two half-domes.

The church has a broad altar; and there are four wooden columns around it. There is a wooden dome at the top of these columns. The two eastern columns hold the image of Christ in the grave. This image was artistically drawn by a monk named Fr. Maximos, between the years 1546 – 1830 AD – as it is engraved on one of the columns.  The altar is decorated with beautiful distinguished inscriptions. Some of these inscriptions are similar to the inscriptions that are found on the altar drape of St. Mary’s ancient Church in the Baramous Monastery, as well as the altar drape of Father Makar's Church in Father Makar's Monastery. All of them refer to the sacrament of communion.  Similarly, some other inscriptions are depicted, such as the mouthpieces of musical instruments that David the prophet vocalizes in his praise.

There are three main altars. The first of them is named after the Virgin Mary, the second altar, which is located in the northern part of the church, is named after St. John the Baptist.  Finally, the third altar, which is located in the southern side is named after the martyr and St. Mar Boktor the son of Romanos.

The Sourian Church is characterized by a beautiful iconostasis that distinguishes it. This iconostasis is called the door of prophecies. There is a dense wall that separates the first choral from the second choral. This wall has a door that is similar to the prophecies' door that is mentioned above. The first choral consists of four shutters. Located up above it towards the right, there is an icon which is made of ivory and wood. In the left, there is an icon of St. Mark the Evangelist, a portrait of St. Mary, St. Peter the Apostle, and there is also another image that remains unclear.  In the lower part there are five rectangles that are adorned with beautiful ivory inscriptions, similar to the style of the previous door. There are Syrian writings on the two columns that stand on either side of the shutters. This door was made in 926 AD, in the era of Patriarch Cosmos of Alexandria and Father Baselios of Antioch.

The second choral contains the reliquary of the Holy Fathers. On the upper part of this compartment there is an ancient image of the Virgin Mary, and another one of St.  Mar Ephraim El Souriany, including a tree branch. Beside his image, there is a cane depicted, and it is made of tamarind wood.

The third choral is wide and established on huge columns. It was said that these columns were expensive because they were made of alabaster. The third choral is surrounded by a wide rectangular square and elevated with smaller layers.  This gives the columns good aeration throughout the summer months. 

The monks of the Sourian Monastery pray at this Church during all the summer months – from the last Friday of the Great Lent to the beginning of the Nativity fast.

A marble basin for Lakan prayers is situated at the start of the third choral. There, the Lakan prayers are prayed even until today.

At the very end of the Church, there is a half-cellar. It includes the western door that leads to the ancient table. This door is decorated with the fresco image of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, as His disciples surround Him. It was said that the Church’s ceiling was decorated by beautiful images, but when one of the presidents tried to restore the Church, he destroyed the contours of these beautiful inscriptions by covering them with the plaster.

Also, a hand written inscription by Pope Cyril V indicates that the last restoration of the Sourian Monastery occurred in the year1782 AD. It was renovated and painted by His Grace Bishop Boutros (The late Bishop of Gerga during that time). This was the when the monastery’s last restoration took place.

In the North side of the first choral's door, there is an alabastrine stone that is attached to the wall, upon it, there we notice writings that total to twenty three Coptic lines. Claudius Labib the teacher had translated those lines into Arabic. Later on, he published each of those lines in the Ain Shams News Paper. The text stated:  “In the name of the Holy Trinity that is equivalent -in the essence- to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Our blessed Father Yehnes Kama had departed on the twenty-fourth day of the month of Kiahk; during the first hour of the night on the twenty-fifth day of the presidency of Bishop Cosmos - head of the bishops of Alexandria – and the nomination of Father Ibrahim over Church of Father St.  Yehnes."

After wards, in the year 575 AD, Fr. Estafanous departed in peace, as per the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

These drawings and inscriptions have been established in the era of Moussa (the head of the monastery) between 907 AD – 944 AD. Betlar mentioned that the historical barriers of this Church must reach back as far as 700 AD. It is similar to Father Bishoy's Church and the Virgin Mary’s church in Baramous. These two Churches might be the oldest monuments in the wilderness to our present time.

The three half-domes over the altar are similar to the sign of the cross. There is an image of crucifixion in the Church. Broumester mentioned in his book “The Guide to the Monasteries of Wadi El Natrun” that this image (icon) is the oldest icon of crucifixion in the world; its history dates back to the Twelfth Century. It is characterized by the drawing of the sun and the moon at the time of crucifixion, when the darkness spread over the earth because of the solar eclipse.