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The Coptic Church owes its existence to the evangelization of Egypt by St. Mark and thus claims to be one of the churches most faithful to the biblical message of the beginnings. The Copts regard themselves as true descendants of the ancient people of pharaonic Egypt. The history of their name is a reminder that this part of the world was at the center of an unusually extensive intermixing of populations and religions. The term "Copt" is an alteration of the Greek Aigyptios (Egyptian) which became "qibt" in Arabic, and gradually came to designate exclusively the community that remained faithful to Christianity in spite of the expansion of Islam. From the early centuries of our era, monks and anchorites established monastreries and hermitages in regions that were often arid and difficult to reach, well suited to their ascetical ideal. At times they reused monuments going back to the time of the pharaohs, turning them into churches and anchorites' cells, and built true fortress-monastreries in the desert. They decorated these building with wall paintings, many of which have been recently rediscovered. Their libraries contained literary and artistic treasures still in existence. Their fabrics, which are of an admirable beauty, are the rpide of great museums and collections. Coptic Egypt has existed for over one millennium in an Islamic land, an experience which has had a profound influence not only on the forms of religious life but also on icnonography and artistic sensibility. Being the heir of ancient Egypt and having assimilated Roman and Byzantine influences, Coptic art has also been enriched by contact with Islamic art. As a consequence, its artisans and architects succeeded ind eveloping an original art and architecture.
Through haunting landscapes of the Nile Valley, oases and deserts, purely designed buildings, sumptuous paintings, beautiful illuminations, and exquisite fabrics, "Christian Egypt" transports the reader through the two-thousand year history and culture of Coptic Egypt.
In "Christian Egypt," Massimo Capuani invites students, scholars, and other interested readers to gain a greater appreciation of the richness of the Coptic civilization by traveling through ancient and medieval Coptic sites throughout Egypt, including the ruined monasteries of Saint Jeremiah (Saqqara) and Saint Apollo (Bawit).
Capuani's comprehensive examination of the archeological studies and historical literature of Coptic Christian monasteries and churches are supported by over 170 black-and-white photographs, maps, and architectural illustrations. In addition, 105 full-color photographs provide a substantive record of monuments, architectural features, and wall paintings not seen elsewhere with such clarity and beauty. A chronology of Egypt from 332 B.C. to 1952 and an essay on the typology and architectural evolution of Egyptian churches add to the value of the work.
"Christian Egypt" is enriched by the contribution of Otto F. A. Meinardus, who introduces readers to Coptic Egypt with a discussion of basic issues such as the patriarchs of Alexandria and theology of the World Church during the fourth and fifth centuries, the history of the Coptic Church, monasticism, the attitude of Egypt's rulers toward the Copts, and the Coptic renaissance during the pontificates of the patriarchs Cyril VI and Shenouda III.
In a valuable, concise account, Marie-Helene Rutschowscaya elucidates several aspects of Coptic art: wall paintings, icons, illustrated manuscripts, as well as textiles. She offers readers a comprehensive picture of the artistic achievements of the Copts. Gawdat Gabra's thorough knowledge of current archeological activity and the most recent consensus regarding the dates and other questions concerning churches and monasteries enhance the store of information in "Christian Egypt."
Contents include Introduction," by Gawdat Gabra; *Coptic Christianity, Past and Present, - by Otto F. A. Meinardus; *The Arts Using Color, - by Marie-Helene Rutschowscaya; *Typology and Architectural Evolution of the Egyptian Churches Areas and Regions, - by Massimo Capuani; and *Areas and Regions, - by Massimo Capuani.
Areas and regions included are The Region of the Delta, Nitria and Kellia, Scetis (Wadi al-Natrun), Cairo and Its Vicinity, Al-Fayyum and the Region of Beni Suef, The Eastern Desert, The Region of al-Minya, The Region of Asyut, The Region of Sohag and Akhmim, The Thebaid, Upper Egypt, and The Oases. Includes a chronology, bibliography, glossary, and index of places.
"Massimo Capuani, an engineer and researcher, is an expert in the history of the Eastern Christian Churches and has a thorough knowledge of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean worlds; he has collected rich documentation about their cultural and artistic development.
Otto F. A. Meinardus, Fellow of the Institute of Coptic Studies in Cairo and a member of the German Archaeological Society, is a doctor of philosophy and theology and a professor at the American University in Cairo and Athens College in Greece.
Marie-Helene Rutschowscaya is head curator of the department of Egyptian antiquities at the Louvre and director of the Coptic section; she is also a professor at the ecole du Louvre.
Gawdat Gabra, former director of the Coptic Museum in Cairo and member of the board of the Society of Coptic Archaeology, has a doctorate in Coptology from the University of Munster. He serves as a consultant in a number of projects of the American Research Center in Egypt and is chief editor of the Saint Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies."
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