A COPTIC CHRISTIAN WOMAN DICTATING A LETTER TO A SCRIBE – LITHOGRAPH BY LOUIS HAGHE AFTER DAVID ROBERTS, 1849
A Coptic Christian woman dictating a letter to a scribe, Cairo, Egypt. Coloured lithograph by Louis Haghe after David Roberts, 1849
I would like to share with my readers the above lithograph by Louis Haghe which is kept at Wellcome Library, London. It is lithograph with tint plate, with watercolour and gum Arabic, which was published by F.G. Moon, London, in 1849, as one of a series of 247 lithographs of Middle Eastern subjects – all printed in a six volumes: the first three volumes are called “The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia”; and the last three volumes are called “Egypt & Nubia”.
Louis Haghe (1806 – 1885) was Belgian lithographer but lived his productive live in London. Although he is the lithographer of this piece of art, he was not the original artist. All his lithographs were based on the watercolours of the famous Scottish Orientalist painter, David Roberts (1796 – 1864). Roberts visited Egypt between 1838 and 1839, staying in it for nearly six months. During his Oriental tour, he visited also the Holy Land, Jordan and Lebanon. That tour provided him with many interesting people, monuments and scenes that he drew and watercoloured, and took with him to London to form the basis for paintings and lithographs. He worked with Louis Haghe to produce the above volumes.
In Egypt, Roberts visited Nubia and Sinai too. There, he drew a lot, including a few pieces with Coptic theme, such as the lithograph I am sharing with you today, “The Holy Tree, Materea”, “Ruins of a Christian Church in the Grand Court of the Temple of Medinet Abou”.
A Coptic Christian woman dictating a letter to a scribe is a beautiful and precious lithograph. In previous articles I explained the importance of paintings and photographs are sources for historians: a lot of history can be obtained from them. Here, we have a depiction of a Coptic woman and a Coptic clerk most probably in the first few months of 1839: this was during the reign of Muhammad Ali (1805 – 1848) and the patriarchate of Petros VII (1809 – 1852). These were tough times, and even though Muhammad Ali tried to modernised Egypt and used the skills of Europeans and Copts in his administration, Egypt was still part of the Ottoman Empire and the Copts were still Dhimmis, who were being under the rule of Sharia which differentiated between Muslim and Christian and discriminated against the latter.
One ominous sign of that discrimination against Copts is ghi’yar which was derived from the Pact of Umar, the second Muslim Caliph (834 – 644): it dictated that non-Muslims be kept different from Muslims in attire, including headgear, to mark him out for discrimination and humiliation. The Copts must wear cheap and rough clothes made of dark colours, mainly dark brown and dark blue. Here, the Coptic clerk displays that.
As I have explained in previous articles, ghi’yar was theoretically abolished in 1854 after the Crimean War, and as a result of pressure from the European Powers on the Ottoman Empire. This, however, did not end practically until after the British arrived in Egypt in 1882.
 Wellcome Library no. 34531i.
 Also called “The Holy Land”. Printed in London, 1842-49.
 Printed in London, 1846-49.
 He set sail for Egypt on 31 august 1838 and departed from it shortly after 16 vMay 1839.
The Holy Martyrs of Libya, icon by Nikola Sarić
Nikola Sarić (b. 1985), is a Serbian artist who currently lives in Hannover, Germany. He is specialised in Christian art, having been influenced by Greco-Roman and Byzantine art.
One of his interesting works of art is Holy Martyrs of Libya – the 20 Coptic martyrs and their companion, the African martyr (Matthew Arayiga), who gave his life at the same time, in February 2015, at Sirte, Libya, having been beheaded at the Mediterranean beach by the Islamic terrorists of ISIS. Our Coptic Church has added their names to the Coptic Synaxarium and celebrates their martyrdom on 15 February.
The icon by Nikola Sarić is 100×70 cm, and is aquarelle on paper. It was displayed in the “Earthly Stories with Heavenly Meanings” exhibition (27th August – 18th October 2015) at Brenkhausen Monastry in Höxter-Brenkhausen, Germany. This Medieval monastery was obtained in 1994 by the Coptic Church, and is now the monastery of the Virgin St. Mary, and is the Coptic bishop seat.
The artist says that he plans to sell it and to support the bereaved families of the martyrs (Here is how to contact him).
About the martyrs, the artist says: “The Holy Martyrs of Libya are 21 Christians, who were murdered by IS (ISIS) terrorists in February 2015. They declined to renounce their faith though threatened with death for 40 days. The Coptic Orthodox church acknowledged them new martyrs.”
On this beautiful icon, the New Liturgical Movement wrote: “Notice how the waves of the sea stained with the martyrs’ blood are shown around the edge of the image; Matthew Arayiga is distinct among the group on the top right. The men were killed wearing orange prisoners’ jumpsuits; all them are looking at Christ except for the one at the bottom, who is looking out at us.”
 A style of painting using thin, typically transparent, watercolours.
 I have made a small correction in the text which I think was incorrect, having most probably been translated from Serbian.
Ewa Wipszycka (or Ewa Maria Wipszycka-Bravo, in full) is a professor of history at the University of Warsaw; and she specializes in the history of Egypt, the Greeks and Christianity. Her academic work is huge as one can see from the link provided.
Wipszycka writes in her preface to the book:
My intellectual adventure with the history of the Church began with research on ecclesiastical economy, incomes and the manner of their administration, expenditures, and the material status of the clergy. The choice of these subjects was absolutely natural to me, since my academic education had provided me with a solid background for tackling such issues; I had also learnt much while preparing my doctoral dissertation on the textile industry of Roman Egypt. In spite of having enough reasons to find the results of my previous research satisfactory, I did not want to explore the subject any farther. It was late antique Egypt that captivated me.
I have not read the book yet, but it seems promising.
 Hard cover, 490 pages (Price: 93 EUR).
Saint Mark the Evangelist is the one who brought Christianity to Egypt in the six decade of our era; and he is considered the first bishop of Alexandria – that is the first Coptic Pope. Others know him as the author of the Gospel of Saint Mark.
The Benaki Museum in Athens has a great collection of Coptic textiles, and one of its fabrics is a “Coptic embroidered roundel with an extraordinarily expressive bust of the Apostle Mark, who evangelised Egypt.” It goes back to the sixth century – that is before the Arab occupation of Egypt.
This may be the earliest extant Coptic representation of Patriarch Mark the Evangelist. I simply share it with my readers, and hope that it will be reproduced by modern Coptic artists.
 ΓΕ 6991. It is 0.09 m. in diameter.
Are the Copts Coptic Christians or Arab Christians like some Palestinian, Jordanian, and even Lebanese Christians confess? This is the question I should think that will be central to the future of the Copts, and ought to be discussed by all Copts in a serious manner.
Do not underestimate the strength of those who would like to see the Copts as Arab Christians: this camp includes many who call themselves Leftists, or work in the Egyptian government and media, and even some clerics, including bishops, sadly. To this camp, all that is important is Christianity, and everything else is valueless. Our language, or ethnicity, and our unique history that has often been at odd with Arabs, do not worth a dime. Let’s forget about our language, our history, our roots; and let us celebrate Arabism – let’s submerge in Arab culture, and as long as we don’t leave the Church, it is ok. Let’s adopt Arabic as our language; pray our liturgy in full in Arabic; and write poetry and hymns in it. Let’s ignore Coptic – let’s set up classes in our churches to teach our children, even in the Diaspora, Arabic and not Coptic. Let’s be part of the Arab nation; and let’s call our patriarchs “Popes of the Arabs”! Let’s consider Arab issues ours; Arab fights ours; and let’s even glorify Arab history and culture.
This of course runs against the grain of Coptic nationalism that sees the Copts as Coptic Christians not Arab Christians – it sees the Copts as no Arabs, and wants to revive this unique nation with its special language and culture. It sees Christianity – this Coptic Christianity – as of paramount importance, not just nationally for its central role in the development of our nation, but also spiritually for its life-giving unique quality: Christ has and will remain the central point of our whole being.
Between these two camps the cultural fight will be joined – and there can be no question that the Coptic Nationalists will win.
Two points I would like to stress here:
1. Many, many people, lay and clergy, even bishops, join us in our position.
2. Coptic nationalism is not anti-Arab or anti-Muslim: it only wants to free itself from every Arab or Islamic influence.
You must decide on which side you stand! You cannot be neutral on this if you are a Copt!
“THE INTERIOR OF THE COPTIC CHURCH OF SANTA BARBARA, CAIRO”, 1918, BY THE BRITISH ARTIST AND ARMY CAPTAIN, FREDERICK OSWELL JONES
Frederick Oswell Jones (1873 – 1969) was a British artist and army captain officer, who was stationed in Cairo during WWI. One of his most beautiful pieces of artwork is a watercolour on paper drawing (12 by 8.75 inch” kept at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and is titled, “Interior of the Coptic Church of Santa Barbara, Cairo”. The artist inscribed the title in ink at the back of it and gave us the date, 9 November 1919. He signed it “F. Oswell Jones” in ink.
The V&A Museum tell us that the watercolour was given to the museum by the artist in 1949, and aadds a note: “Watercolour drawing of the interior of the Coptic Church of Santa Barbara in Cairo, reputed to be the first Christian church ever to have been built. Egypt, 1918.”