The American Research Center in Eygpt

Exhibition Gallery at St. Antony's Coptic Monastery

Exhibition Gallery at St. Antony's Coptic Monastery

Exhibition Gallery at St. Antony's Coptic Monastery

Updated: August 2014

Picture an austere desertscape of dry valleys and mountains. Nestled against this backdrop stands a monastery complex surrounded by high adobe walls with churches and chapels, a bakery, a spring, and a lush garden where olive and date trees are cultivated by monks under the unrelenting sun of Egypt's Eastern Desert.

St. Antony’s has continually occupied this site since the 4th century. Some one thousand such objects include chalices, patens, liturgical spoons, kitchenware, farming and fishing implements, bookmaking material, and icons dated between the late 17th to 20th centuries; also included are 19th century vestments belonging to Coptic Pope Kyrillos IV of Alexandria.

Work underway on the St. Anthony’s Monastery exhibition. Photo: Michael Jones

When USAID and ARCE first began working together in historic cultural heritage in the mid-1990s, Fr. Maximous el-Antony conceived a project to create an exhibition illustrating the history of the monastery and the monastic life in a specially designated room in the monastery. Although a pledge was made to support the exhibition at that time, all available funds were allocated to the cleaning and conservation of the mediaeval wall paintings in the old church of St. Anthony and the exhibition had to be put on hold. Now, the exhibition has become a reality. ARCE assisted Fr. Maximous in the design, layout, display and presentation of the artifacts chosen from various parts of the monastery, together with Italian exhibition designer Michaelangelo Lupo.

The themes of the exhibition are the traditional life of the monks, the interconnections between the monks of the remote desert monastery and their Beduin neighbors who facilitated supplies from the Nile Valley and the role of monasticism and the monks in the modern world. Groups of objects on display include equipment relating to storage and preparation of food; fishing tackle used on expeditions to the coast; liturgical and devotional objects such as processional crosses, chalices and chalice boxes, patens, censors, vestments and icons; and printing presses and manuscripts. Wall mounted information panels in Arabic and English explain the various themes represented by the objects on display. Enlargements of photographs taken by Thomas Whittemore’s expedition
of 1930-31, donated by Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, document conditions at the monastery before modernization, are also included.

Read more from an ARCE staff member about her 2011 visit to help work on the object database >>

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