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Coptic Museum, Cairo
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Coptic Monuments are considered as a liaison between Ancient Egyptian Art during the Pharaonic and the Graeco-Roman periods on one hand and the Islamic era on the other. Housing the world's largest collection of Coptic Christian artwork, the Coptic Museum in Cairo provides a link between ancient and Islamic Egypt.

This fact granted these monuments a great importance in the Egyptian Art in general. The Coptic Museum in Cairo is a life-like record of one of Egypt's periods all fraught with various antiques and monuments reflecting the different civilizations that graced the land of Egypt starting by the Ancient Egyptian civilization, passing by the Greek, the Roman, the Coptic, and lastly the Islamic. The Coptic Museum is generally arranged by artistic medium. The first floor has carved stone and stucco, frescoes, and woodwork.

Morcos Smeika Pasha founded the Coptic Museum in 1910 after raising funds by public subscription. He used his influential position in the Coptic community to acquire many Coptic artifacts from old Coptic houses. At that time there were several museums in Egypt: the Cairo Museum for pharaonic antiquities, the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The Coptic Museum was founded to fill the gap in the records of Egyptian history and art. The Egyptian government actively supported the initiative, and by 1947 a new wing was added to house a collection that was kept in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The Coptic Museum was renovated in 1983-84 and again in 2005-06. Morcos Pasha Smeika was followed by Dr Togo Mina and then by Dr Pahor Labib, the first to have the title of Director of the Coptic Museum.It lies behind the walls of the famous Roman Fortress of Babylon in the ancient district of Cairo (Misr Al-Qadima). The area surrounding the museum abounds in lively monuments of open museums that depict with the Coptic Museum the history of the Coptic Period in Egypt..

The second floor includes textiles, manuscripts, icons, and metalwork. The collection includes many exquisite pieces, but several are noteworthy more for their quirkiness or syncretism than their beauty. Look for carvings and paintings that trace the transformations of the ankh into the cross, and Christian scenes with Egyptian gods. The largest collection of Coptic artifacts and the most significant collection of Coptic art in the world are found in this museum and include 16,000 pieces. The Old Wing of the museum is a fine piece of architecture consisting of a series of large rooms. In 1931, the Egyptian government recognized the importance of the Coptic Museum and attached it to the state. In 1947, a large New Wing was opened, its style similar to that of the Old Wing. President Mubarak opened the restored museum in 1984.

The old wing of the museum houses a collection of wood furnishings and inlaid doors. Of special note is the sycamore wood sanctuary screen from the Church of Saint Barbara. The panels are recognizable as having been crafted in the Fatimid period during the eleventh or twelfth century. The collection housed in the new wing contains objects decorated with geometric designs, scrolls of acanthus and vine leaves, and friezes inhabited by rabbits, peacocks, birds, and rural activities. These styles and themes were passed from the Hellenistic and Coptic legacy into the Islamic artistic vocabulary in Egypt.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 place, moreover, embraces Virgin Mary's Church known as the Hanging Church; a great ancient worship house of world stature that was among the very first to host Coptic rituals on the face of earth. The museum was built in an architectural style using wood in ceilings and oriels (arabesque and lattice glass). Some biblical verses are written against them ornamented with Coptic embellishments like plants, especially grapevines, birds such as eagles, ostriches and peacock which all imply a certain philosophy and a specific significance in the Christian creed. Marble pillars and fountains ornamented with mosaic are more than present under the roof.

The manuscripts and documents of the museum date from the 4th through the 19th centuries, and are written in Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Old Nubian, Arabic and Ethiopian. Some are even bilingual, written in both Coptic and Arabic. They are printed on Papyrus, parchment, paper, bone and wood tablets, as well as pottery and limestone. Some are complete manuscripts, while others are fragments, mostly biblical, hagiographical and liturgical. Clearly, the documents and ostraca provide valuable insights into the ecclesiastical, social, economic and legal aspects of different periods. Some of the illuminated manuscripts are remarkable. The Coptic Psalter from the 4th or 5th century, recently discovered, is now considered the oldest complete biblical text possessed by Egypt. The Coptic Gnostic codices from the 4th century could be considered one of the most valuable collections of papyri in the world. When the Aswan High Dam was constructed, an international effort was mounted to salvage the Nubian monuments that would be submerged once the construction of the Dam was completed. Included among these monuments were Christian structures dating between the 5th and the 14th or 15th centuries. The Coptic Museum now exhibits a number of frescoes from these churches, including ones from the Church of Abdallah Nirqi (10th century). Other items include Nubian Christian gravestones, pottery and textiles. Old Nubian and Coptic texts from Nubia are also on display.

Towards the end of the museum are a few of the most masterful pieces within the museum collection. These include the patriarchal throne build of bronze and copper, resting on four strong columns surmounted by crosses. A second piece is a wooden litter inlaid with bone and mother of pearl used to carry wealthy ladies in Jerusalem. It dates to the Ottoman period and is rich with decorations. The last item is a wooden box with ivory inlays. It was originally intended to store clerical vestments during the 17th through 19th centuries. It is adorned with very remarkable geometric decorations.