The Deir al-Surian Library has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 9th century. It now stands proudly amid the ancient walls of the historic Monastery of the Mother of God and an elegant tamarind tree, whose survival is as important to the monks of Deir al-Surian as the collection itself. 

Connecting the Past to the Future by Mother Antonia, St. Demiana Monastery, Egypt 

More than one thousand years ago, deep in the remote desert of the northwestern Nile Delta in Egypt – commonly known at that time to locals and strangers alike as ‘Scetis’ – in the quiet of a secluded Coptic Christian monastic community, two hooded figures started something very special indeed. Matthew and Abraham, as they were called, were Syrian monks of the famous Monastery of the Mother of God, later renamed the Monastery of the Syrians – one of the many early Christian monastic communities of Scetis. It is to these two simple monks that modern scholarship owes an enormous debt of gratitude; for it was Matthew and Abraham who were responsible for establishing the monastery’s first library of ancient Christian texts. Little did Matthew and Abraham know that the library which they were starting would eventually become one of the oldest and most important surviving collections of ancient Christian manuscripts in the world.The beginning of the Deir al-Surian Library has been traced back to the 9th century when Matthew and Abraham laid its foundations, and from that period onward, the accessions of ancient Syriac texts became increasingly frequent, with numerous contributions received from the vast region of Syria and Mesopotamia. These manuscripts included Gospels, biblical texts, theological and philosophical writings, homilies, and historiographies of the desert fathers.

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