Welcome to THE NORTH AMERICAN THEBAID, a multi-year pilgrimage to photograph Orthodox Christian Monasteries of the United States and Canada, leading to publication of a large-format coffee-table book (St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press, publisher), revealing glimpses and insights into this “intensely powerful, life-creating and life-changing” way of life… the Way of Orthodox Christian Monasticism. 

The Thebaid Book will be published in both a Standard Edition with scuff-resistant, French-fold dust jacket, and a Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather with ribbon marker. Pre-order now on the Thebaid Store.

Signed copies with Signed/Matted Fine Art Prints from the Thebaid Project are also available to pre-order in special bundles.

The Deluxe Limited Edition and the Signed/Matted Fine Art Prints are only available for a limited time, until we reach the printer’s deadline for the book.

Proceed to our new Thebaid Store to get the full details and pre-order. 

This large-format, fine-art “coffee table” book will represent the culmination of a unique project and publication, which has combined crowdfunding, social media, and an unprecedented photographic pilgrimage to over thirty Orthodox monasteries across the American continent, to help raise awareness of and interest in the Orthodox Church and its ancient monastic traditions, and thus contribute to the “churching” of America.

Scroll down to learn more about this unique creative missionary endeavor . . .

Prototype design for the Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather of the Thebaid Book. See more cover designs and pre-order on the new Thebaid Store.

The North American Thebaid is a registered non-profit association, recognized as a 501(c)(3) by the IRS, established with the blessing of Bishop Paul of Chicago & the Midwest (OCA). We are endorsed by the Church, but we are not funded by the Church. Nor do we have corporate sponsors or wealthy benefactors to financially support our work.

Rather, we rely on individual contributors like you to partner with us in our mission to help reveal the Orthodox monastic life, to make it vividly and beautifully present and real. Together, through this photographic pilgrimage and the resulting book, we can help expand the mission of the Orthodox Church, and contribute to the churching of America.”

In the words of Metropolitan Tikhon of the OCA:

It is important to recognize the great contribution that the monastics make to the Apostolic Work of the Church. It has historically been the monasteries that were on the forefront of the missionary endeavors of the Church…

We are grateful for the example and the life of the monastics, and we need to encourage our children to consider this sacred life…

The principal way we fund the North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage is through pre-orders for the book.

This is a time-honored method used by such well-known artists and photographers as John James Audubon and Ansel Adams. Sometimes referred to as a Founding Subscriber’s Edition, this pre-order business model is being embraced anew by independent publishers to help ensure the success of specialty books for niche target markets, and is perfectly suited for the Thebaid Project.

Visit our new online Store, where you can pre-order the Standard Hardcover Edition of the Thebaid Book, as well as the Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather, plus receive additional valuable rewards. We also have discounts up to 33% off for multiple copies.

Become a ‘Thebaid Pilgrim’

Explore the GalleriesProject section, Blog and other pages of the website to learn more. Be sure to Like us on Facebook also.

To get started, scroll down and watch the short video introduction below.

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

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

What is the North American Thebaid Project?

NAT Mock-Up Book-red3
Original 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 three-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.”

Proceed to our new online Store to pre-order the Thebaid book, and use the link in the right-hand column to subscribe to our email list for regular updates, and watch for more exciting news as we prepare to  launch the coffee table book into the world.

And please remember us in your prayers . . .

19 thoughts on “About

  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


  4. tonycharles55

    Dear Zosimas, it was such a pleasure to see you the final stage of your west coast leg. May God richly bless you as you wind down from your two years of seemingly perpetual travel and bring your work to fruition with the publication.


  5. Luis

    This is an awesome project. Please include in your project photos and texts from communities, such as: The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; and Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (known as the Indian Orthodox Church). Thank you!


    1. Thank you for your interest! The photography has already completed, but there have been discussions of perhaps a “Volume II,” and as there are about a hundred monasteries in North America, I haven’t even covered a third of them yet.


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