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January 11, 2017


On 7 June 2016, Elizabeth Bolman’s book, The Red Monastery Church Beauty and Asceticism in Upper Egypt appeared; published by Yale University Press.

Elizabeth S. Bolman is professor of art history at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. She is the one who directed the Red Monastery Project since 2005 to conserve the monastery’s fascinating wall paintings. The project was undertaken by the American Research Center in Egypt, and was funded by USAID. This is an excellent example of how USAID is used to preserve cultures that are important to the whole world. Bolman’s work, that cannot be bettered, will be remembered by the Copts forever.

About the book, the publisher says:

The Red Monastery church is the most important extant early Christian monument in Egypt’s Nile Valley, and one of the most significant of its period in the Mediterranean region. A decade-long conservation project has revealed some of the best surviving and most remarkable early Byzantine paintings known to date. The church was painted four times during the 5th and 6th centuries, and significant portions of each iconographic program are preserved. Extensive painted ornament also covers the church’s elaborate architectural sculpture, echoing the aesthetics found at San Vitale in Ravenna and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Distinguished contributors from a wide range of disciplines, including art and architectural history, ancient religion, history, and conservation, discuss the church’s importance. Topics include late antique aesthetics, early monastic concepts of beauty and ascetic identity, and connections between the center and the periphery in the early Byzantine world. Beautifully illustrated with more than 300 images, this landmark publication introduces the remarkable history and magnificence of the church and its art to the public for the first time.

Some of the book reviews are reproduced below:

“Like the discovery of the Great Palace mosaics of Constantinople or the icons of Mount Sinai, Elizabeth Bolman’s discovery of the Red Monastery paintings changes the face of Late Antique art. We are confronted now with the largest single unified program of Church decoration of the first millennium, with graceful figures articulating a sophisticated theological message that Bolman presents with masterful clarity.”—Thomas F. Mathews, author of The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art

“This enthralling book makes the exquisite, hitherto unknown Late Antique paintings of this Coptic monastery accessible and immediate with the world-changing jolts that very fine art history can still provide.”—Glenn Peers, University of Texas at Austin

“This sumptuously illustrated volume will greatly advance the study of early monasticism and early Christian architecture.”—David Frankfurter, Boston University

Coptic Nationalism would like to encourage those who are interested to get this book. It is sold for $55.00. It can be ordered here.

The reader can watch Bolman’s video talking about her great work here.


January 10, 2017


This beautiful woven textile from Coptic Egypt dated to the 4th-6th centuries is kept at Met Museum, New York. Its exact provenance is unknown, but probably from Akhmim. It is wool and linen; and measures 32.5 x 61.8 cm.

I share it here with my readers, and copy the Met’s description for their information:

This elaborately woven band was probably originally part of a large wall hanging for a domestic setting covering a door or decorating a wall. All the motifs related to the pleasures of the elite on their country estates. The large cocks confront each other across a large cluster of grapes with grape leaves by their feet. The detailed spurs on their claws suggest they were used for sport. Above their backs are hunting dogs.

Against a blue ground, a pair of boldly colored cocks with red crests, heart-shaped wattles and wings, and colorful feathers face one another over a pyramid of grape clusters. Their feet interrupt a series of grape leaves and vine tendrils. Behind the birds two hunting dogs charge toward one another. The attention given to the roosters’ claws and spurs and the inclusion of hunting dogs suggest that the birds are sporting animals, a subject entirely appropriate for a domestic textile. In the early Byzantine period, images of prosperity were favored themes for furnishings in the homes of the elite and the aspiring.

The striking pattern of confronted cocks was repeated on the complete hanging. A modern repair to the tail of the yellow rooster repurposed feathers from the now lost textile to give the appearance of a complete bird. Bands of pink and yellow frame the vignette, creating a friezelike border that may have finished the top or bottom of the large hanging. Alternatively, the vignette may have formed part of the primary design, as is the case with a number of other hangings from the period that feature elaborate compositions of repeating stacked bands combining figural images, simple ribbons of color, garlands laden with fruit and birds, and vine scrolls.


December 24, 2016



Robert Charles Goff (1837 – 1922) was a British colonel and an artist, who visited Egypt in 1898. He has a few works from Cairo. I cannot find a Coptic work by him except one, and its location at the present is unknown to me. It is titled ‘Old Cairo – Abu Syfain’, and signed R Goff 1898. It’s a watercolour painting depicting a Coptic priest, may be a monk, with his pupil inside the historical Church of Abu Syfain (St. Mercurius) in Old Cairo.

For more on Abu Syfain, or Abu’s Sifain, read Butler’s The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Volume One, pp. 75-154.


December 18, 2016

In our article on 11 August 2015, there was a mistake in reading St. Samuel of Kalamoun feast day, who we could call Father of the Coptic Language, and, consequently, the date of the proposed Coptic Language Day was got wrong. The feast of St. Samuel is actually on 8 Koyahk; so amended the date for the Coptic language day to 17 December (18th in leap years). We reblog the original article with the correction.

ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية

We call for the celebration of a Coptic Language Day every year on the 20th of July.

Saint Samuel of Kalamoun[1] is the ascetic on whose lips the Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun was put, most probably not without some credibility. Saint Samuel (597 – 693) lived in the seventh century and witnessed the Arab occupation of Egypt and all the evil that accompanied it. The CopticSynaxarium says he had many prophesies about what will happen in the age to come after the Arab invasion. Part of his prophesies, to his own great distress, was that there will come time when the Copts, in an endeavour to assimilate to the Arabs and Muslims, will neglect their beautiful Coptic language, and replace it, often with a pride, by the language of the hijra – Arabic. No Copt has spoken in such great passion about the Coptic language, or with…

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December 17, 2016


Andrea Frances is an Australian songwriter and singer from Perth. Her music genre is Australian Melodic Indi-Folk, and it includes Gospel. On 2 October she released her newest song, and it is about the twenty-one Coptic martyrs (twenty Copts and one believed to be from Ghana) who were slaughtered by the Islamist Muslims in Sirte, Libya, in February 2015. The beautiful song is called “21 Lions”. Frances has sung the song, as she says, “In honour of the 21 Coptic Christian martyrs, and the present day persecuted Christian Church”.

The story of this song, Frances explains beautifully as follows:

“Early 2015, I happened upon the startling images of 21 young Coptic Christian men; twenty Egyptians and one African. They were led along a Libyan beach to be simultaneously beheaded by extremists. They’d been abducted and then given the choice to deny their God, or lose their life. They chose death, and I will be forever marked by their united, courageous faith. The martyrs’ families extended forgiveness to their executioners and expressed pride and joy in their boys’ lion-hearted resolution to their final moment. What is this Love that, instead of responding in violence or submission, lays itself down for something Higher, Truer and more Beautiful?”

Listen to Andrea Frances’ 21 Lions:

Here are the lyrics of the song:

Song, song, I heard a song
The sand it sang from African shores
Blood, the blood gave voice to song
Wild horses ran, waves peeled like Heaven’s bells

Heaven’s bells they rang
Eternal choirs sang
To their knees they sank
From the cup of Love they drank

Twenty one martyrs fell
Their hearts aroar with lions
Counting all as loss

Same, same, we are the same
Your brave, I sang from far Western shores
Blood, your blood runs rivers long
And strong the courage I must learn from

Brothers of the Cross
You’ve gained more than you’ve lost
Your lips called out for Christ
Following His sacrifice

Twenty one martyrs fell
Their hearts aroar with lions
Counting all as loss

Shame, shame, despise the shame
And set before you the joy, the joy
Love, love, what love is this
That chooses death before denial?

Twenty one martyrs fell
Their hearts aroar with lions
Counting all as loss
Gold separated from the dross
Gold separated from the dross
Gold separated

The reader can preview, buy and download songs from the album 21 Lions – Single including “21 Lions” on iTunes. You can buy the album for $1.69. Songs start at $1.69.


December 15, 2016

I have written about this before, the Copts are a nation defined by defiance – a nation that is obstinate, strong and courageous. No nation perhaps has endured oppression, persecution and discrimination like the Copts in their history; and the Copts continue to face the most horrible attacks and maltreatment from the Muslims of Egypt, both the public and the government.

One would expect a people who are under such circumstances to renounce their religion or at least hide it. Not the Copts! The Copts tattoo their right wrist with a visible cross – and they are careful to stamp their children with the cross from early age. The message which the Copt with that cross on his or her wrist is that we are Christian – we don’t deny Christ or the Cross. We are not afraid. And we shall defy you.

This is how Christianity lives in Egypt – through a strong Faith, courage and defiance.


The photo is courtesy of Coptic Orphans.


December 15, 2016


Ya’agub Bey Nakhla Rofeilah (1847 – 1905)

 Ya’agub Bey Nakhla Rofeilah (1847 – 1905) was born in Cairo during the patriarchate of Pope Butrus (Peter) VII (1809 – 1852), and lived during the patriarchates of Popes Kyrillos (Cyril) IV (1854 – 1861), Demetrios II (1861 – 1870), and Kyrillos (Cyril) V (1874 – 1927).

He learned at the Coptic schools established by the reformer Pope Kyrillos IV, and studied Italian and English. He was appointed a teacher for these two languages at the Coptic school in Harat al-Saqa’een, in Cairo; and, while a teacher there, he studied and learned French.

He left teaching at some point and worked as copy editor at the state’s main printing house. His works there helped him later in establishing two printing houses for the Coptic newspaper, Al-Watan, and the Coptic charity, Al-Tawfiq Society.

He then resigned his post, and worked as a clerk in the ministry of finance, and was promoted to the position of a director. He was made Bey while working there, and continued to work for the ministry until he retired.

After that, he was appointed secretary to Fayum’s railways company. While living in Fayum, he established Coptic charities, and two schools for the education of boys and girls.

On 14 April 1905 he passed away, aged 58, and was buried at the monastery of St. Mina.

Rofailah was heavily involved in what is called the Reform Movement. Tawfiq Society was heavily involved in that movement; and he was one of the active members of the Coptic Millet Council (National Council).

He has four books:

  • Tarikh al-Umma al-Qibtiya (History of the Coptic Nation تاريخ الأمة القبطية) (1898)
  • A book on how to learn Arabic for the English (التحفة المرضية في تعليم الإنجليز اللغة العربية) (1882)
  • A book on learning English (الابريز في تعليم لغة الإنجليز) (1882)
  • Gamous al-Islahat (The Dictionary of Reforms قاموس الإصلاحات) (This book, was not yet printed in 1910; and to my knowledge, it is not in print until this day)


The second print (2000) of the History of the Coptic Nation by St. Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies

His history of the Coptic Church is the most important. Since the 13th century, no one really wrote Coptic history, apart from a few scattered biographies of the patriarchs. Rofeilah’s history is the first one in our modern age; after it other Coptic historians emerged. He starts his history from Pre-History in Egypt, and the Pharaonic dynasties, the Persian rule, Greeks, Romans, and then the various Arab and Islamic periods until the end of the 19th century. In his last three chapters, he gives summary of Coptic history in modern age, which he, rightly, considers to have started with Pope Kyrillos IV, who is called by him, “Abi al-Islah (Father of Reform)”: he divides that history into three periods, and call the first period, First Renaissance, the second period, Second Renaissance, and the third period, Third Renaissance. Rofeilah adds to his book a useful glossary at the end.

To my knowledge, Rofeila is the first Copt who uses the term “Coptic nation” in a publication. This term was subsequently was used by all educated Copts, until it was suppressed by the Nasser regime after 1952.

Rofeilah’s history is not accurate sometimes, as he draws it from various sources, including Arab and Islamic ones. However, this book, published in 1898, is the first one that treated Coptic history along modern lines. In 2000, the book was reprinted by the St. Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, with Dr Gawdat Gabra writing a preface for the new print.


Details of the biography of Rofeilah has been taken from Ramzi Tadrus, The Copts in the Twentieth Century (1911); pp. 24-5. His picture is from the same book, opposite p. 104.

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