Who are the Coptic Christians of Egypt?

Learn about the largest Christian group in the Middle East

By American Research Center In Egypt

Monastery of St. Anthony (1999-06) by Robert K. Vincent Jr.American Research Center In Egypt

Copts are the largest Christian group in the Middle East, but many outside the region are unfamiliar with the community.  

St. Mark (1998-05) by Patrick GodeauAmerican Research Center In Egypt

Coptic Church Chanting During the Liturgy
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According to tradition, the founder of the Coptic Church was the apostle St. Mark, who brought Christianity to Egypt in the 1st century.

In 451 AD, they split with the larger Christian community over differing ideas about the divine and human natures of Christ. 

Hanging Church, Cairo (2004-10) by Przemyslaw "Blueshade" IdzkiewiczAmerican Research Center In Egypt

Coptic Church Bells Tolling
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Other elements are unique, like the Coptic calendar which is based on the ancient Egyptians calendar and has 13 months. Holidays vary and Christmas, for example, falls on January 7th, instead of December 25th, and is a national holiday in Egypt.  

The Hanging Church by Kenneth GarrettAmerican Research Center In Egypt

In practice, the Coptic Church shares some theology and rituals with Catholicism and are led by a Pope (currently Pope Tawadros II) based in Alexandria. 

St. Anthony (1998-12) by Michael JonesAmerican Research Center In Egypt

A large part of the Coptic religion is monasticism. St. Anthony was an Egyptian monk who is considered the father of monasticism. Monks are people who dedicate their lives to worshipping god. Traditionally, they lived simple lives isolated from the larger society.

Monastery of St. Anthony (1997-10-17) by Robert K. Vincent Jr.American Research Center In Egypt

Interview with Father Maximus el-Anthony
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Modern Monks

However, as society modernized, the monasteries too have evolved. While the monks of today no longer live like those in ancient times, stereotypes persist. Father Maximus el-Antony describes how embracing modernization has allowed monks to better serve the community.

St. Anthony's Monastery Interior by Kenneth GarrettAmerican Research Center In Egypt

Father Maximus says technology has played a large role in the spiritual revival of monastic life in the Coptic community, as more young people have been exposed to the church through music recordings, books, and information online.

Monastery of St. Anthony (1995) by Project Staff PhotographerAmerican Research Center In Egypt

Interview with Father Maximus el-Anthony
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The Heart of Monasticism

Even as the world changes, the goal of monks, and of all Copts, remains the same.

View of St. Anthony's (1998-06) by Michael JonesAmerican Research Center In Egypt

Today there are about 30 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in the world, mostly in the Middle East and Africa. The Monastery of St. Anthony is an important pilgrimage site among Copts as it represents the self-sacrifice of the first monks and their total commitment to Christ.  

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Credits: Story

The project in the Monastery of St. Anthony at the Red Sea was sponsored by American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. 

Created by Tessa Litecky and  Elisabeth Koch, ARCE 
 Visit ARCE at www.arce.org 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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