Welcome to THE NORTH AMERICAN THEBAID, a pilgrimage to photograph Orthodox Christian Monasteries of the United States and Canada.

Watch the short video below to get a quick idea of the Thebaid Project, then scroll down for more info, and explore the Join the Pilgrimage page, Project page, Blog and other sections of the website to learn more. Be sure to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter too.

Sign up for email updates (at right) and watch for Project news. Our initial crowdfunding campaign has enabled travel and photography to already begin in September 2016, and our ongoing book pre-sales and fundraising is essential to the success of the Thebaid Project.

We offer rewards (“perks”) for our supporters starting at $25 and up for all levels of backers. Starting at the $50 level, Thebaid supporters will receive copies of the First Edition of the finished book, scheduled to be published in late 2018, after the travel and photography has concluded. Signed copies are available at $100 and up, and a special Bonded Leather, Deluxe Limited Edition, signed & numbered, is available at $275. Quantity discounts are available, and signed/matted fine-art prints are bundled with all book pre-orders at $100 and up. Full details here.

You can contribute directly via the PayPal button in the right-hand column; simply indicate in the comments which rewards you are selecting, or if you have any questions.

I hope you’ll join me in becoming a Thebaid Pilgrim, and help support this worthy project with your donations and prayers!  ~ Thank you!

What is the North American Thebaid Project?

NAT Mock-Up Book-red3
Prototype Book Cover

The North American Thebaid is conceived to be both pilgrimage and publication, resulting in a large-format coffee table book of fine art photographic images, with select, inspiring texts, covering as many Orthodox monastic communities in North America as God allows.


My plan is to travel over approximately a two-year period, staying for a few to several days at a time at various monasteries and sketes, living, praying and working with the monastics, while creating numinous, compelling images of the sacred space, the grounds, the life and the worship of these communities. In between my stays at monasteries, I will be presenting the “work in progress” at parishes, planting seeds, making connections, and helping expand the mission of the Orthodox Church in North America.

What is a “thebaid”?  Per the Catholic Encyclopaedia,

thebaid-mapThe valley of the Nile, under Roman domination, was divided into four provinces: Lower and Upper Egypt, Lower and Upper Thebaid. The last two comprised the upper part of the valley. During the fourth to fifth centuries it was the chosen land of the monks, who by their sanctity and by the form they impressed on the monastic system greatly influenced the East and the West.

A thousand years after this initial flowering of Christian monasticism in the Egyptian Thebaid, there was already flourishing in Russia a “Northern Thebaid,” and in the mid-1970s, St Herman of Alaska Press of Platina, California, published a collection of the lives of many of the great Russian ascetics in a book bearing that title. The book’s description reads:

northern-thebaid-book-3“From the fourth century A.D., the desert Thebaid of Egypt was the home of thousands of monks and nuns who made the desert a city peopled with Christians striving toward heaven in the angelic way of life. A thousand years later, no fewer thousands of monks and nuns, likewise seeking union with God, went to live in the forests of northern Russia, creating what has become known as the ‘Northern Thebaid’. 

Just as the sultry African nature with its clear blue sky, lush colors, its burning sun, and its incomparable moonlit nights, is distinct from the aquarelle soft tones of Russia’s northern nature with the blue surface of its lakes and the soft shades of its leafy forests—in the same way the sanctity of the Saints of the Egyptian desert, elemental and mighty, is distinct from the sanctity of Russia, which is quiet, lofty, and as crystal-clear as the radiant and quiet evening of the Russian spring. But both in Russia and in Egypt there is the same noetic prayer, the same interior silence.”

It was out of the Russian “Northern Thebaid” that the Orthodox Christian Faith was brought to North America, by a group of missionary monks in 1794. Now, more than two centuries later, Orthodox Christian monasticism is firmly rooted in the United States and Canada, and so it seemed proper to launch this project — a photographic pilgrimage to the “North American Thebaid” — to begin exploring these holy sites sanctified by the prayers and labors of men and women who have “denied themselves, taken up their cross, and followed Christ.”

Subscribe to our email list for regular updates, and watch for exciting news as we prepare to launch the project.

And please remember us in your prayers . . .

14 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Anthony

    Wonderful! I look forward to following the effort.

    Side note: One can never tell in most English renderings, but it should be Thebaïd or Thebaïs in pronunciation (separated rather than a diphthong).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zosimas: We’ll be praying for your project, to His glory! If you’re traveling to Elwood City, note that the Skete of St. John the Theologian is only about an hour away in Hiram, OH. All love in Christ, Fr. Basil Rusen/St. Herman’s-Hudson.


  3. The pictures from St. Gregory Palamas, Abbot Joseph and his brethren put me at ease since I know he would not bless any foolishness. Fr. Steven Kostoff blessing your equipment and your mention of the trip with my dear friend Fr. Alexander Atty. Your batting three for three with me. God bless. I will look at the funding page and get some copies ordered for Christmas presents in the future Fr. James


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