Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coptic Studies

Desert Fathers
An article looking at the Coptic monasteries and, in particular, the fate of the manuscripts of Deir Al-Surian: "Syrian monks had always frequented Wadi Al-Natrun ever since the fourth century. By the 17th century, only Coptic monks inhabited the monastery, caring for the library, the paintings, and the invaluable manuscripts. Forty of these ancient texts were acquired by Pope Clement IX between 1715-1735. These documents are safely kept today in the Vatican Library. A century later, (1839-1851), the British Museum of London procured 500 Syrian manuscripts of religious, philosophical and literary context. Lord Curzon and other Britons purchased a considerable quantity of these documents which inspired intense research in the Syriac language and culture. Despite the numerous losses, the monastery of the Syrians still retains rare works in art and history, and religious manuscripts of "inestimable scholarly value". Now they are threatened by decay. After 1,500 years, time has ravaged the priceless treasures. They need a serious rejuvenating process to bring them back to their original status. To study, survey, restore and preserve this unique heritage for future generations, time, effort dedication, and above all, funds are needed."

Encounter: Gawdat Gabra
This week's Encounter column on Al Ahram Weekly is focused on Gawdat Gabra: "The chief editor of the St Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, active participant at International Congresses on Coptology, and author of several books on Coptic history and monasticism". He was also, at the request of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, a key participant in the development of the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

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