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Coptic Museum, Cairo

Coptic Museum, Cairo

Housing the world's largest collection of Coptic Christian artwork, the Coptic Museum in Cairo is a must-see for visitors interested in Christian art or Egyptian history after the pharaohs. The Coptic Museum is a museum in Coptic Cairo, Egypt with the largest collection of Egyptian Christian artifacts in the world. The Coptic museum houses the world's most important examples of Coptic art. A large part of the appeal is that the Coptic Museum forges a link between the worlds of ancient Egypt, Christianity and Islam.


The collection includes many exquisite works of art, as well as some artifacts notable for their religious syncretism - the gradual transformation of the Egyptian ankh into the cross and divine sun discs into halos, Christian scenes incorporating Egyptian gods, and ancient Egyptian columns transformed into baptismal fonts. A selection of artefacts from the Coptic Museum exemplifies its rich holdings. Outstanding articles on Marcus Simaika - the Founder of the Coptic Museum, the museum’s history, Coptic language, monks and monasticism, art, music, customs and traditions reveal Coptic culture in all its diversity.

Coptic monuments display a rich mixture of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman traditions, linking ancient and Islamic Egypt. The objects are grouped into different mediums, such as stonework, woodwork, metalwork, textiles and manuscripts. The total number of objects on display is about 15,000 objects. This museum also contains the largest collection of Coptic textiles "wool, linen and silk." It was the most important industry during the early Christian period in Egypt. This is also a museum with a mission -- the intent behind the layout is to show how Coptic imagery is deeply embedded in all aspects of Egyptian life, and following the displays you can see the sun discs of ancient deities morph into iconographic halos and the capitals of Pharaonic columns transform into baptismal basins.

The most striking stylistic feature of Coptic figurative representation are the exaggerated rounded or oval eyes, under relatively thick eyebrows, and the contrapposto position (the weight of the body thrown onto one leg). Garments are often depicted with details of pleats and folds. The figures range from tall and slim to the short and thickset. Facial expressions usually span a narrow divide between non-committal to somber.

The old, original wing of the museum is in itself a fine piece of architecture consisting of a series of large rooms, roofed over with ancient decorated wood and containing beautiful mashrabiya. Its walls are overlaid with fine slabs of marble, arches a and tiles. In 1931 the Egyptian government recognized the significance of the Coptic Museum and made it a state institution. SThe most important part of the museum is probably the collection of scripts, which include papyrus sheets of the Gnostic gospels found at Nag Hammadi in 1945, and the Coptic Psalter, the oldest preserved codex in the world are upstairs. Book lovers will especially appreciate the second floor, where manuscripts hundreds of years old are on display. Among these, the Coptic Museum’s most prized possession is the oldest known Coptic Psalter, containing a collection of Psalms in Coptic and transliterated into Arabic.
Coptic Museum

Address:
Coptic Museum
Total Objects : 15250
Mar Girgis St. - Old Cairo (Misr al-Qadimah), Cairo
In the center of Old Cairo, across from the exit from the Mar Girgis Metro stop
Tel. +20-2-3628766, 3639742
Hours: Daily 9am-5pm (ticket office closes at 4pm).
Prices: Admission LE16 ($2.90/£1.50); students half-price

Last Updated on Sunday 16th January 2011