This city was known to the ancient Egyptians as “Pimazit” meaning “Golden Scepter”, then it was known as the city of “Oxyrnikhos” in the Greek and Ptolemaic era, meaning “City of Qunuma” in relation to the “Qunuma” fish, a type of fish with a pointy mouth, which they considered at that time a sign of prosperity and blessing in their territory.
In the Greek era, “Oxyrnikhos” was the capital of the Arcadia region, and in the fifth century there were large monastic congregations there. In fact, due to the large number of churches and monasteries that were located in this place, Palladius, the historian of Egyptian monasticism and Bishop of Helenopolis, said about it: “Oxyrnikhos is the city whose number of churches was bigger than the number of its houses.”
Al-Bahnasa was the seat of a large diocese where there were thirty thousand monks and nuns in the area, as it was mentioned by Father Palladius, including the hermit Dermatos – founder of a monastery, and also Harman, Bishop of Gao in Upper Egypt. Among its bishops was His Eminence Anba Boutros, who attended the First Council of Ephesus in 431 AD.
The same words were confirmed by “Ruvius” at the beginning of the fifth century as the bishop of the city told him that there are 10 thousand monks and twenty thousand nuns in the city, and that there is a list of twenty one monasteries for monks and nuns.
There were also huge churches in Bahnasa, but the monks also had turned pagan temples into churches and monasteries, and the clergy were present everywhere in the city, and holy masses were held in the streets of the city, and this city was like one huge church or as if it was a large monastery inhabited by clergy and monks.
Today, there is only one church in Bahnasa in the name of St. George, which was built in 1923 AD.
According to the report of the Supreme Council of Antiquities on the Bahnasa region, an ancient church was discovered in Bahnasa consisting of two floors. The lower one was built in the Byzantine style and the upper one in the Basilica style, and only the church foundations remain.