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