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VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHS OF COPTIC CHURCHES IN THE 19TH CENTURY BY THE FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER, FELIX BONFILS

December 12, 2013

Félix Bonfils, or Paul Félix Bonfils, (1831 – 1885), was a brilliant French photographer who documented life in the second half of the 19th century in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Greece and Constantinople. In 1878 he published a photographic album, Egypt and Nubia. I have not seen the book, but I tried to gather as many photos by him with Coptic themes. Unfortunately, I could not find any pictures of Copts – only the interior of some of their churches. There is one photo of the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Mark in Azbakiyya; three of the Church of Saint Barbara in Old Cairo; and one of the Church of Abu Serja (Saint Sergius), Old Cairo.

I certainly would hope that more of his photos on the subjects would appear in the future with more searching. I have not been able to establish the year Bonfils visited Egypt but the photos were most probably taken in the second half of the 1870s during the early years of the patriarchate of Pope Cyril V (1874 – 1927) and when Egypt’s ruler was Khedive Ismail Pasha (1867 – 1879).

Bonfils3 Interior of the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Mark in Azbakiyya, Cairo

 Bonfils4Interior of the Coptic church of Saint Barbara in Old (Coptic) Cairo, showing the iconostasis

 Bonfils5Interior of the Coptic church of Saint Barbara in Old (Coptic) Cairo, showing the iconostasis, close-up

 Bonfils2Interior of the Coptic church of Saint Barbara in Old (Coptic) Cairo, close up showing the haikal (sanctuary) door

 bonfils1Interior of the Coptic church of Abu Serja (Saint Sergius) in Old (Coptic) Cairo

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2013 5:09 pm

    Reblogged this on SocialHumanRace and commented:
    The ethnic EgyptiCoptic nation has it’s own language EgyptiCoptic! It is not EgyptianArabic! Arabic is an import, from Arab Empire invasions ,occupation and Arabizing, of Egypt!! Arabic is dominant but Coptic culture is a living social world of Egyptian thinking, artifacts, sculpture and people!

  2. December 12, 2013 9:18 pm

    Reblogged this on .

  3. December 12, 2013 9:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Ace History News and commented:
    #AceHistoryNews says ” Vintage Photographs of the Coptic Churches in the 19th Century by the French Photographer, Felix Bonfils” #Histor2Research

  4. Adele Chatelain permalink
    December 13, 2013 12:56 pm

    I’m so happy you gave us such a beautiful ‘gift’ this Christmas (of those gorgeous photos of the interior, especially of St. Barbara’s). I’ve always been so fascinated by the beautiful woodwork done in Coptic churches; I even bought the large book on the restoration of the wall murals as well as the woodwork in St. Antony’s monastery, that was done in the 1990’s. I sometimes sit for hours, looking and absorbing their beauty with each page. Again, thank you….

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      December 13, 2013 1:18 pm

      Thank you very much, Adele. I am glad that you liked it. Wish you have a very happy and blessed Christmas.

  5. April 24, 2016 9:19 pm

    Dear Dioscorus, thank you for all your excellent and hard work, your posts have great historic value to every Copt, they are all are very well referenced and documented , Thank you again , I always wanted to learn more about our Coptic heritage.
    I and my two brothers were baptised in the Coptic church of Abu Serja (Saint Sergius) in Old (Coptic) Cairo, my beloved father during the Holy Pascha week took us every year to visit and worship, I sent a request to become your facebook friend.
    In Jesus Love, Raafat Samuel Hanna (Now in USA)

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