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SOME MOST BEAUTIFUL ENGRAVINGS OF COPTIC SAINTS, MONKS AND A NUN FROM AN EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FRENCH BOOK “HISTOIRE DES ORDRES MONASTIQUES, RELIGIEUX ET MILITAIRES, ET DES CONGRÉGATIONS SÉCULIÈRES” BY PIERRE HÉLYOT AND MAXIMILIAN BULLOT

July 14, 2012

Figure 1: Title of Tome 1 of Histoire des ordres monastiques, religieux et militaires, et des congrégations séculières by Pierre Hélyot and Maximilian Bullot.

One of the most interesting books, and from which much can be learned about the Copts, is the French book Histoire des ordres monastiques, religieux et militaires, et des congrégations séculières de l’un & [et] l’autre sexe, qui ont esté establies jusqu’à present (which translates in short into: History of monastic orders, religious and military, and secular congregations) by Pierre Hélyot and Maximilian Bullot. It was published by Nicolas Gosselin in Paris in eight volumes between 1714 – 1719 AD.[i] It is Tome Premier (Volume 1), published in 1714 AD, which interests us more, since it contains three chapters[ii] on the Coptic monasteries, monks and hermits, in addition to five beautiful engravings:

Chapitre VIII: Des Moines Coptes ou Egyptiens[iii] (The Coptic or Egyptian monks).

Chapitre IX: Des principaux Monasteres des Moines Coptes[iv] (The principal monasteries of the Cooptic monks).

Chapitre X: Des ceremonies qui s’observent à la vêture & à la profession des Religieux & Religieuses Coptes, & de quelle maniere ils font les reclus[v] (Of their ceremonies and the vestments of the religious men and women, and in what manner they lead a hermetic life).[vi]

I think the text is important, and I would hope that one day it gets translated into Engliah and other languages. I, however, will limit myself here to the five extremely fascinating images that are included in the text. I am not sure as to the identity of the artist; however, it may be the French engraver engraved by Thomassin. I will reproduce these works of art below for the benefit of my readers; and will write a short comment as a postscript at the end:

Saint Paul, Premier Ermite (Saint Paul, the First Hermit):

The reader is to find this in Planche 1 (Plate 1) at the end of the Dissertation Preliminaire section; p. 67.

St. Antoine Patriarch des Moines Coenobites (St.Anthony, Father of the Coenobitic Monks):

 

The reader is to find this in Planche 2 (Plate 2), in Chapitre II: Vie de Saint Antoine Abbé; between pages 74 and 75.

Moine Cophte (Coptic Monk):

 

The reader is to find this in Planche 18 (Plate 18), in Chapitre VIII: Des Moines Coptes ou Egyptiens; between pages 114 and 115.

Moine de S. Machaire (Monk from the Monastery of St. Macarius [Abu Maqar]):

 

The reader is to find this in Planche 19 (Plate 19), in Chapitre IX: Des principaux Monasteres des Moines Coptes; between pages 122 and 123.

Anciene Religieuse Cophte (Coptic Nun):

The reader is to find this in Planche 20 (Plate 20), in Chapitre IX: Des principaux Monasteres des Moines Coptes; between pages 128 and 129.

Postscript:

I guess one thing we can learn from these beautiful pieces of art, which were possibly made by Thomassin, is that Coptic monks in the early 18th century did not wear a uniform religious habit. Planches 18 and 19, Moine Cophte (Coptic Monk) and Moine de S. Machaire (Monk from the Monastery of St. Macarius [Abu Maqar]), show that very clearly. We have seen in a previous article[vii] that the Coptic clergy in the second half of the 16th century wore fanciful hats (berretto ‘bornaita برنيطة’). It seems that the final standardisation of the religious habit of Coptic monks, nuns and priests only occurred in the modern age. Before that, there was wide variation – particularly, Coptic religious men and women did not always wear black. For this we shall return again.

 


[i] Volume 1 & 2 in 1714; Volume 3, I could not find a copy of it, but suspect it was published in 1715; Volume 4, in 1715; Volume 5, 6 and 7, in 1718; Volume 8, in 1719. All volumes, except Volume 3, have now been digitalised, and copies exist in the Internet Archive.

[ii] In addition, there three other valuable chapters: Dissertation Preliminaire (pp. 1-66); Chapitre I: Les moines de saint Antoine, etc. (pp. 67-74); and Chapitre II: Vie de Saint Antoine (pp. 74-81).

[iii] Histoire des ordres monastiques, religieux et militaires, et des congrégations séculières; tome 1; pp. 114-122.

[iv] Ibid.; pp. 122-128.

[v] Ibid.; pp. 129-132.

[vi] The English translation is mine.

[vii] Dioscorus Boles (13 July 2012), JACOBI SLUPERII (JACOBUS SLUPERIUS) AND HIS COPTIC HERMIT AND COPTIC PRIEST – A CHANGE IN COPTIC COSTUME IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, http://copticliterature.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/jacobi-sluperii-jacobus-sluperius-and-his-coptic-hermit-and-coptic-priest-a-change-in-coptic-costume-in-the-second-half-of-the-sixteenth-century/

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