Saturday, March 06, 2010

5th Symposium on Coptic Studies

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

An excellent overview of the recent symposium.

Coptic history never ceases to enthral. Jill Kamil attends this year's symposium near Aswan.

Clockwise from top: the western corridor to the north of the apse of the Monastery of Deir Al-Hedra; map of Aswan and environs; view of the Nile at Aswan with a sheikh's tomb known as Qubbet Al-Hawa on the west bank of the Nile, and the Monastery of Qubbet Al-Hawa in front of noblemen's tombs to the left; a young student interviews Father Martyros Angelos in English

"Early Christianity and Monasticism in Aswan and Nubia" was the fifth symposium on Coptic Studies to take place at a monastic centre. Organised by Coptologist Gawdat Gabra, Fawzi Estafanous of the St Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, Hani Takla, president of the St Shenouda Society, and under the auspices of Pope Shenouda III and Anba Hedra, archbishop of Aswan, it was held in the new Monastery of St Hatre (still under construction), within walking distance of the ruins of the famous Monastery of St Hatre in the Western Desert -- known for some unknown reason by early archaeologists and travellers as the Monastery of St Simeon.

Situated due south-west of the southern tip of Elephantine, the monastery is named after an anchorite who was consecrated by Patriarch Theophilus, bishop of Syene (Aswan), at the beginning of the fifth century.

Before the opening ceremony the participants walked down the rocky incline from the new monastery to the old, where a mass was held. As we made our way back to the conference centre we were left wondering why this large and impressive monastery was in such a sorry state of repair. It was apparently examined and published by Peter Grossman in 1985, and in 1998 the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) removed some debris from the church, but little else appears to have been achieved.

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