A group of monks belonging to an Egyptian-based church founded by the apostle St Mark have had their plan to build a church at a North York Moors beauty spot recommended for approval as it will help continue the monastic traditions of the area.
St Athanasius’ Monastery, which became the first Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria monastery in Great Britain in 2004, has applied to the North York Moors National Park Authority to build a church at its base at Darncombe-cum-Langdale End.
The Coptic Orthodox church dates to the middle of the 1st century, split from the rest of the Christendom in 451 and now has about 20 million followers worldwide.
With 23 acres of land surrounding the monastery, the monks are able to be self sufficient as they grow their own vegetation and keep a range of animals, they also produce cheese and honey, and the aim of building the church is to make their visiting congregation more comfortable.
A congregation of up to 100 worshippers, regularly travel to the monastery in three buses, to join the monks, who lead a strict life of fasting and prayer, following a daily routine which begins with morning praises at 5am.
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The monks said the congregation, which fasts for nine hours and prays before eating as part of the service, would require space to prostrate themselves.
However, the parish council representing the hamlet near Scarborough, with has just 42 residents, has objected to the proposal after residents said the monks’ ambition of building a 38m long church featuring two 8.4m-high domed towers in the style of churches in Egypt would be out of character in the isolated North Yorkshire valley.
A parish council spokesman said: “While councillors can appreciate the monastery’s need for a church, the design is completely out of keeping for the area and will result in a building which looks totally alien in the landscape.”
A report to the park authority’s planning committee, which will decide upon the proposal next week, states while the church would large, it would use local stone, not be overbearing in terms of scale and height, would be sited on the monastery’s 23-acre plot and screened from wider views by trees.
The officers’ report states: “Whilst this proposal would comprise a new building in the open countryside, it is considered that development would cause no undue harm to planning interests and does in fact represent one of the special qualities of the national park – strong religious past and present – and reflects the monastic traditions found in the North York Moors.”