Menas, Saint

Menas, Saint (d. c. 296 CE)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Saint Menas (a.k.a. Mar Mina) is one of the most honored saints in the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, and many reports have come forth of healings at his tomb. Menas had a miraculous beginning, as his previously barren mother attributed her pregnancy to her prayers before an icon of the Virgin Mary. Menas served in the Roman army. During the reign of the emperor Dioclecian (r. 284–305), Menas protested the anti-Christian stance being promulgated through the empire by deserting. He spent five years in hiding before deciding to announce his Christian faith publicly as persecution against the Christian community grew. For his act, he was tortured and executed. His body was returned to Egypt for burial.

Menas’ body was laid to rest at Mareotis, in the desert not far from Alexandria. His tomb became a focus of attention following the changes in Christianity’s status throughout the Roman Empire under Constantine (c. 272–337) and Justinian I (527–565). Accounts of miracles associated with Menas’ tomb significantly increased the number of pilgrims, and a monastery and town began to arise close by, as there was a spring to supply water. The emperor Arcadius (r. 383–408) erected a large church. Also, in the sixth century, a church was erected in honor of Menas in Cairo (later destroyed by the Muslims and rebuilt).

Karm Abum, the desert town and monastery where Menas was buried, was completely wiped out in the middle of the ninth century. Abandoned, it was forgotten over the centuries. Early in the twentieth century, the site was uncovered by a German archeologist, C. M. Kaufmann. Among his findings were numerous small flasks bearing the phrase “Remembrance of St. Menas.” Similar flasks, believed to have once contained water from the nearby spring, have been found at locations throughout the sixth-century Christian world.

There the matter stood until 1943. The Coptic patriarch to Alexandria prayed for the city as opposing armies approached. When the city escaped destruction, he attributed the good fortune to Saint Menas. He then ordered the rebuilding of the shrine at Karm Abum.

Sources:

Budge, E. A. W. Texts Relating to Saint Mêna of Egypt and Canons of Nicaea in a Nubian Dialect. London: British Museum, 1909.
Meinardus, Otto F. A. 2000 Years of Coptic Christianity. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1999.
Salih, Abu. The Armenian: The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt and Some Neighboring Countries. Ed. and trans. by B. T. A. Evetts. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2001.