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The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 323
away in the desert, but Pernuj was connected by road with
Alexandria, so the Nitrian monks were in touch with Alexandria,
where they went to sell the baskets they made, and St. Athanasius
in the days of his trouble found a refuge amongst them and was
still able to control Church affairs in Alexandria. In Nitria there
were some Greeks of Alexandria who went out to adopt the
monastic life, but they seem to have kept apart, not quite in
accord with their Coptic neighbours.
Shiet and its vicinity, the modern Wadi el-Natrun, lay within
the Western Desert and so was exposed to raids by the Berber
tribesmen who repeatedly destroyed buildings and slew their
inmates. Such raids took place in 407, 434, 444, 570, and 817.
After each attack some scattered monks who had managed to
escape came together and revived the monastic life. Gradually
they learned that it was necessary to fortify the monasteries and
provide a strong tower for refuge. Some of the monasteries have
disappeared, but several survive and still continue on the old
lines: the daily services duly recited, not in church, which is
used only for the Eucharist, but the monks standing round in
the open, no such luxuries as choir stalls, at most a crutch
allowed for the use of the aged and infirm.
The monastic life of Egypt became famous throughout the
whole Christian Church, and for a long time Egypt was regarded
as the cHoly Land' in preference to Palestine, because there
could be seen the multitudes of saintly ascetes, and Christians
came as pilgrims from all parts to see and hear them. Amongst
these were St. Basil the Great, the founder of Greek mon-
asticism, Hilarion, who introduced monasticism into Palestine,
Rufinus and a Roman lady named Melania who spent six
months in Egypt in 373. Then in 386 St. Jerome and a wealthy
widow named Paula visited the monasteries of Egypt, and of
this visit St. Jerome has left us an account (Epistle 108).
Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis, spent the years 388-99 and
406-12 amongst the monks of Egypt, the former period in