THE FIRST FOUR ARCHIMANDRITES OF THE WHITE MONASTERY FEDERATION
The White Monastery Federation is the name given to include the Red Monastery and White Monastery in Sohag area, in Upper Egypt, and the Convent of Women in Atripe, to the south of Sohag. Although Saint Shenoute is the most famous of the archimandrites who looked after the Federation, he is not the first. It was St. Pcol (Pgol) who first established the White Monastery along Pachomian lines. Later, St. Pshoi established the Red Monastery a few miles to the north of the White Monastery. Both Pcol and Pshoi looked after the women convent in the village of Atripe, to the south pf Sohag. It appears that both Pshoi and Pcol agreed to run their communities as one federation, and Pcol emerged as the leader.
After the death of St. Pcol, a monk by the name of Ebonh; however, he was criticised for his leadership, and he was, therefore, replaced by St. Shenoute in 385 AD. When he died in 466 AD, St. Shenoute was succeeded by Besa (also called Wessa).
It seems that Ebonh leadership has not been recognised as legitimate leader of the Federation, at least in works of art. However, we have the portraits of the other four leaders painted in the north apse of the Red Monastery church. They were painted to show the chronology of the leadership in respect of the Red Monastery, starting with Pshoi, then Pcol, Shenoute, and, last, Besa.
The portraits are thought to date from the 7th-century. They all show the saints wearing the same attire, but each with his own character.
Figure 1: Pshoi
Figure 2: Pcol
Figure 3: Shenoute
Figure 4: Besa