Hundreds of mud-brick chapels spill over the crest of a hill at this early Christian cemetery. They date from a time between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, when Christians wrestled among themselves over the concept of God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit—was God one, or three in one?
Bagawat is probably the oldest Christian cemetery of such magnitude in the world. Most of the 263 chapels, which served as individual tombs and family mausoleums, are unadorned. Two tombs have Biblical scenes painted on their ceilings. The Chapel of Peace is the best preserved, with depictions of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, and St. Paul dating from the late 5th century AD. The Chapel of the Exodus at the summit of the complex dates from the 4th century AD, and the Biblical scenes and characters here are depicted in an earlier, more naive artistic style. Pharaonic elements and Byzantine allegorical symbols can be seen on the walls, which are littered with centuries of graffiti.
The necropolis was arranged in a series of streets as a "city of the dead." The remains of an early mud-brick basilica occupy the middle of the complex, and hundreds of unexcavated graves cover a nearby hill.