From my recent article at Arab West Report:
A man named ‘lantern’ finds a buried treasure, and with the money builds a church and extends a priesthood. If only all tales of Coptic Orthodox churches were so adventurous. (Some are.)
The village of Qufada, home of the Virgin Mary and St. Abaskhiroun Church, is about a 30-45 minute drive from Maghagha, 160 kilometers south of Cairo, in the governorate of Minya.
The church was built in 1910 by Fanus Abaskhiroun [‘Fanus’ means ‘lantern’ in Arabic]. He was a building contractor of average means, when one day he discovered buried gold on a plot of land he was developing.
Fr. Yu’annis, one of two priests currently serving in the Qufada church, related this fact and the story which follows. He says the tale of the gold is probably 90 percent true. Even today ordinary Egyptians illegally mine for Pharaohnic treasure on restricted archeological sites, so Fanus simply had a hundred year head start.
Throughout Upper Egypt, there are many villages with churches, and many villages without – despite a local Christian population. Fr. Yu’annis, who descends from a priestly heritage stretching thirty generations, described it this way:
… historically the issue of building churches rested with the good will of Christian landowners. Where they feared God and cared for the people, as in the example of Fanus and Qillini Pasha, churches were built. Yet there are several other villages in Maghagha today which do not have a church yet did have wealthy Christian residents.
Please click here to read the full article at Arab West Report, including a description of the last four generations of lineage. Here is Fr. Yu’annis at work, with a few other additional pictures:
The sign reads: Oh Lord, remember your servant Fanus Abaskhiroun and his children and his grandchildren, who have concerned themselves with this holy place in the kingdom of heaven. Amen. 1910 AD.
In front of the sign hangs an ostrich egg.