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Coptic Art: A Visual Tale of Death and Resurrection

August 28, 2020
Mosaic of the Blessed Mother at the dome of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Zeitun, Cairo, Egypt. Image by Ike Gomez via Flickr.

Christian art is often associated with Western imagery, yet it isn’t much acknowledged that Eastern forms of Christian art are also products of their own history, spiritual beliefs and own forms of artistic expression. The Copts are considered to be the Christians of Egypt, when Christianity was introduced early on by St. Mark who was the writer of one of the four Gospels. Yet the shift from ‘Pharaonic’ to ‘Christian’ Egypt wasn’t as disconnected, as there were several borrowings from the art of the ancient era, representing instead a continuation and resurrection of every generation in Egypt’s history. Beginning in the 4th century in Egypt, Coptic art uses spiritual imagery – which is distinctive from pagan representatives – to serve as reminders and instructions for the afterlife, allowing worshippers to be in constant ‘wonderment’ of God’s creation through artistic expression. In other words, it provides a visual tale of life, death and resurrection. Paintings Some historians note that Coptic art inherited various influences from ancient Egyptian art, particularly the use of geometry, floral, birds, animal figures, as well as activities like fishing and farming. For instance, vine leaves and grapes…

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