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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.

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