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