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OLD PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE RED SEA MONASTERIES OF SAINTS ANTHONY AND PAUL BY THE THOMAS WHITTEMORE’S EXPEDITION IN 1930-1931

March 9, 2013

SEE ALSO: POSSIBLY THE EARLIEST FILM OF COPTIC MONASTERY FROM 1930 AD: SAINT PAUL MONASTERY, RED SEA here.

one

Figure 1: Thomas Whittemore’s expedition, before leaving the Monastery of Saint Anthony, Egypt, 1930-1931

two

Figure 2: Thomas Whittemore and the Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Paul, Egypt, 1930-1931

I have pleasure in putting up links to these beautiful black and white photographs of the two Coptic Red Sea monasteries, Monastery of Saint Anthony (Antony) and Monastery of Saint Paul, which were taken in 1930-1931 by the expedition led by the American archaeologist, Thomas Whittemore (1871–1950). To preserve Byzantine art and architecture, he founded in 1931 the Byzantine Institute of America, which is now located in the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, in Washington, DC. He is known for his preservation of the Hagia Sophia mosaics in Turkey, but not too many people know that he was also interested in studying Coptic sites. In 1930-1931 Whittemore “made a trip to the monastery [of St. Anthony] in Ford automobiles. They [the expedition by the Byzantine Institute of America] carried out a survey of the monastery, including all of its buildings, took photographs, made a short silent film, and copied some of the inscriptions and paintings. The scholarly credentials of the expedition were impressive.”[1] It seems that rather than one expedition, there were two in the winters of 1930 and 1931; and they were both “composed of Professor Thomas Wittemore, the architect Oliver Barker, the artist Netchetailor, the photographer Kazazian and Professor Piankoff. In addition to identifying and photographing the wall-paintings in the Church of St. Antony, Professor Wittemore photographed the famous fourteenth-century Difnâr in the monastery library.”[2]

Although the concentration of Coptologists has been on the visits to the Monastery of St. Anthony, Whittemore visted at the same time the other Red Sea Monastery of St Paul. I wish I have access to the “short silent film”, the copies of “the inscriptions and paintings”, and the photographs of “the famous fourteenth-century Difnâr” to present them to my readers. Here below, however, are the links to some of the rare photos of the two monasteries which were most probably taken by the Armenian photographer Kazazian, and which are made public by the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Readers must know that the two ancient Coptic monasteries were renovated in 2002 by the American Research Center in Egypt, which revealed the beauty of the art and architecture of these two monasteries. The following pictures will help the reader to realise the great work done by the Americans, which we have spoken about elsewhere.

THE MONASTERY OF SAINT ANTHONY, EGYPT

The monastery’s general view and old entrance:

Old entrance to the Monastery of Saint Anthony

General view of the Monastery of Saint Anthony

View of the Monastery of Saint Anthony from the East

The Church of St. Antony:

Door of the Church of Saint Anthony, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Interior of Church of Saint Anthony, looking East, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Khurus, North wall, Saint George, Church of Saint Anthony, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Nave, East wall, Virgin Mary and Christ Child, Church of Saint Anthony, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Door of the Haikal, Church of Saint Anthony, Monastery of Saint Anthony

The Church of St. Mark:

General view of the Church of Saint Mark, Monastery of Saint Anthony

The New Church:

View of New Church, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Some Coptic monks at the Monastery of Saint Anthony:

Abu-Mine, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Abbot, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Abu Kosmas, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Life and various activities at the Monastery of Saint Anthony:

Refectory, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Oil mill, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Monk roasting coffee, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Monks baking the Holy Bread, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Monk stamping the Holy Bread, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Monks sorting dried grapes, Monastery of Saint Anthony

Bread for the Arabs, Monastery of Saint Anthony

THE MONASTERY OF SAINT PAUL, EGYPT

The monastery’s general view and gate:

Gate of Monastery of Saint Paul

View of the Monastery of Saint Paul taken from the Keep, looking Southwest

View toward the sea from the Monastery of Saint Paul

The churches and tomb of Saint Paul at the Monastery of Saint Paul:

St. Paul’s Tomb, Monastery of Saint Paul

Interior of the Church of St. Mark, Monastery of Saint Paul

Cupola over entrance stairwell, Cave Church of Saint Paul, Monastery of Saint Paul

Some Coptic monks at the Monastery:

Group portrait of monks, Monastery of Saint Paul

Life and various activities at the Monastery of Saint Paul:

Divine service, Monastery of Saint Paul

Baking the Holy Bread (Kurban), Monastery of Saint Paul

The Abbot in the library, Monastery of Saint Paul

Some manuscripts from the library of the Monastery of Saint Paul:

Coptic manuscript from the library, Monastery of Saint Paul

Another Coptic manuscript from the library, Monastery of Saint Paul


[1] Elizabeth S. Bolman, Monastic Visions: Wall Paintings in the Monastery of St. Antony at the Red Sea (2002); p. 182.

[2] Otto F. A. Meinardus, Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert (1992); pp. 24-25.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2013 7:49 pm

    The old photos are absolutely lovely! Thank you for sharing them.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      March 11, 2013 2:42 pm

      Glad you liked it!

  2. March 10, 2013 10:42 am

    Wonderful – thank you!

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      March 11, 2013 2:41 pm

      Thanks, Diana.

  3. Matej permalink
    August 13, 2016 3:31 pm

    Very nice to see these photograps and to compare them with that on the panoramio web site. Even today, it is quite hard to find relavant information obout this monastery.

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