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Coptic Monasteries: Egypt's Monastic Art and Architecture Hardcover – October 15, 2010
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About the Author
GAWDAT GABRA has been the director of the Coptic Museum in Cairo since 1985 and is the author of several books and numerous articles on Coptic studies. He is the editor of Be Thou There: The Holy Family's Journey in Egypt (AUC Press, 2001).
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"Gabra invaluable Coptic Monasteries architectural record, is an in-depth guide to a living tradition. The tome goes to the roots of one of the world's oldest Christian traditions. Gabra provides archeological maps and good illustrations, He even furnishes floor plans for the monasteries, that reflects its architecture, and plates presenting Coptic art and history."
Dr Gabra exploration of the most ancient monasteries in Christianity which have survived sixteen centuries of tribulations, under the Romans, Arabs, Mamelukes, and Turkmen is an armchair trip back in time. He starts the book with an introduction to Coptic monasticism and provides a chronology of Christianity in Egypt. The Copts have been able to survive in Egypt during hard times, by monastic guidance, by the Bishops of Alexandria as Peter, Athanasius and Cyril. After the historical overview, Gabra discusses the architectural aspects and Coptic art preserved in ancient monasteries in Egypt. The artwork in the monasteries and old churches are national treasures and many are being restored for Christian pilgrimage. Some of the Coptic museum most valuable items is the Coptic Gnostic Library of Chenoboskion, discovered in 1945 near the city of Nag Hammadi.
Christian monasticism started in Egypt with St Antony and Paul the anchorite, in the late third century. Makarius of Egypt, Anthony's disciple, started semi-anchoritic, known as cell or cellular monasticism in Sketes, west of the Nile Delta. Egyptian monastics followed from near by Nitria and Kellia, where some monastic communities of Egyptian Jewish ascetics were started by the Therapeutae (healers), dedicated to contemplative life. Pachomius, a centurion in the Roman army retired and founded Cenobetic (communal) monasticism. He stayed near Elder Palaemon for seven years before he initiated the Koinonia in upper Egypt. He wrote monastic life canons, for the monks in Pabau monastery. These cannons were later discussed by John Cassian in his 24 'Conferences,' which influenced St. Benedict, who incorporated most of the same in his monastic rules.
Gabra takes the reader on a tour of the best preserved and most relevant of these ancient Christianity centers, documenting in vivid detail the rich tradition, a glory of the Coptic heritage. Most of these help illuminate the birthplaces of Christian dogma and traditions. Wall Paintings in the Monastery of St. Antony on the Red Sea, and wall murals in Bawit, stand witness to the evolution of the fine art of Icons, started by Ancient Egyptians, up to the Greek Roman era which is evident in the recent discoveries in Fayum, the ancient oasis city of Arsinoi. The book is a delightful tour, and a fascinating read. Dr Gabra's complemented with expert commentary, and some hundred full-color photographs of restored wall paintings, covering a thousand plus years of Coptic history. Gabra's observations will persuade the reader to explore more of Egypt's most delightful Christian art, an outward projection of benedictory architecture of monasteries one should travel to enjoy.
Gawdat Gabra, a Coptologist, has taught courses at American and Egyptian universities. For example, in Spring 2004, he taught an Egyptian Monasticism and Coptic Art course for the School of Religion at CGU, Claremont Graduate University. He was the director of the Coptic Museum in Cairo from 1985 to 1989. With a PhD in Coptic Antiquities from Münster University in Germany, Gabra has been an active participant at international conferences on Coptology and is the author of several books, including Architecture and Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments through Two Millennia. The concise introduction by Fr Tim Vivian, a prominent expert on Coptic spirituality and monasticism, brings to life the whole era, with information on the Coptic Church roots, rites and feasts. Hagiographies of monastic founding fathers, and theological debates, even nomadic raids are vividly recounted.
Monastic Visions: Wall Paintings in the Monastery of St. Antony at the Red Sea
It does have a weird smell but nothing that is not tolerable. Very good product.