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Article

Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

Article

Bawit  

C. Walters

Site on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 16 km west of Daryūt in the province of Asyūt, Egypt. A large monastery with rich sculptural and painted decoration originally lay in the desert 1 km to the west. According to tradition it was founded by the monk Apollo in the late 4th century ad and was inhabited until the late 12th century. The site was excavated intermittently between 1901 and 1913 by the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo; most of the structural finds were removed to the Coptic Museum in Cairo and the Louvre in Paris. The monastery consisted of an enclosed nucleus with other buildings outside the walls, although it is not known how much of the site was occupied at any given time. Within the enclosed area were two churches. A number of two-storey structures were excavated, of which the ground floors were probably chapels and the upper floors served as living quarters, as in the monastery of Apa Jeremiah at Saqqara (...

Article

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Large areas of the world that came under Muslim sway beginning in the 7th century—notably the Iberian peninsula, North Africa, Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Central Asia—had sizeable Christian communities, and it took several centuries for Muslims to become the majority population in these regions. Christian minority communities continue to survive—and even flourish—in such regions as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Christians—as well as Jews, Zoroastrians and others—shared the visual vocabularies of their Muslim neighbors, if not their faith, and it is often difficult if not impossible to distinguish a work of “Islamic art” made for a Muslim from one made for a non-Muslim. Indeed, many of the craftsmen making “Islamic art” may have been Christians or Jews, for Islamic art has been defined as the art made by artists or artisans whose religion was Islam, for patrons who lived in predominantly Muslim lands, or for purposes that are restricted or peculiar to a Muslim population or a Muslim setting. In some times and places, Muslims and Christians violently contested the same spaces, whether during the “Reconquest” of the Iberian Peninsula or the Crusades in the Levant. Despite the bellicosity, in both cases artistic interchange created such distinctive traditions as ...

Article

Lucy-Anne Hunt, Hero Granger-Taylor and Dominic Montserrat

A disputed term adopted by art historians to denote early and medieval Christian art in Egypt as well as art undertaken for pagan patrons in Late Roman and Early Christian Egypt. ‘Copt’ derives from the pharaonic name for Egypt via the Greek aigyptos and the Arabic qibṭ, the word used by the Muslim Arab invaders after ad 641 to refer to the Christian inhabitants of Egypt; in modern usage the term is also applied in a narrow sense to the Monophysite national church.

Lucy-Anne Hunt

According to tradition, St Mark brought Christianity to Egypt in the reign of Nero (reg ad 54–68). Its rapid spread was undoubtedly accelerated by the deteriorating conditions that had prevailed in the country since the Roman conquest of 30 bc. Already by ad 190 the first important institution of religious learning in Christian antiquity, the Catechetical School, had been established in Alexandria; its emergence coincided with the first direct attacks on the city’s Christians. These continued under subsequent Roman emperors, culminating in the persecutions under Diocletian (...

Article

Michael Curschmann

The medieval term mappa mundi (also forma mundi, historia/istoire) covers a broad array of maps of the world of which roughly 1100 survive. These have resisted systematic classification, but the clearly dominant type is one that aims at comprehensively symbolistic representation. Its early, schematic form is a disc composed of three continents surrounded and separated from one another by water (“T-O Map”) and associated with the three sons of Noah: Asia (Shem) occupies all of the upper half, Europe (Japhet) to the left and Africa (Ham) to the right share the lower half. Quadripartite cartographic schemes included the antipodes as a fourth continent, but the tripartite model was adopted by the large majority of the more developed world maps in use from the 11th century on and—with important variations—well into the Renaissance. While details were added as available space permitted, the Mediterranean continued to serve as the vertical axis and, with diminishing clarity, the rivers Don and Nile as the horizontal one. The map also continues to be ‘oriented’ towards Asia, where paradise sits at the very top. A circular ocean forms the perimeter and not infrequently the city of Jerusalem constitutes its centre....

Article

Mendes  

Robert S. Bianchi

[now Tall al-Rub‛a and Tall Timay; Tell el-Rub‛a and Tell Timay]

Egyptian city in the Nile Delta, which flourished from at least the Old Kingdom (2575–c. 2150 bc) to the Christian era (c. ad 800). The site, which was first excavated by François Mariette in 1860, consists of two contiguous mounds. To the north is Tall al-Rub‛a, the site of the capital of Egypt in the 29th Dynasty (399–380 bc), and to the south Tall Timay (Gr. Thmuis), the site of an ancient settlement, which superseded that of Tall al-Rub‛a during the Roman period (30 bcad 395). The principal deity of Mendes was Banebdjed, usually represented as a ram or a ram-headed man. Numerous stone sarcophagi of the sacred ram abound in the north-western part of Tall al-Rub‛a. Banebdjed, Hatmehyt the dolphin-goddess (worshipped at Mendes in Predynastic times) and their child, Harpocrates, formed a group of deities known as the Mendesian triad....

Article

Namibian, 20th century, male.

Born 1943, in Etunda io Nghadi, Angola; died 27 November 1987.

Engraver, painter. Religious subjects. Designs for tapestries.

John Ndevasia Muafangejo was born in Ovamboland in southern Angola in a village of the Kwanjama region which straddles the Namibian border. When his father died in ...

Article

Sohag  

C. Walters

[Sūhāg]

Chief town of the province of Sohag, Egypt, situated on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 490 km south of Cairo. To the west of the town are two 5th-century Coptic churches, known as the White Monastery (Dayr al-Abyad) and the Red Monastery (Dayr al-Ahmar). The White Monastery is the more important of the two. Although the surrounding area was investigated briefly by Petrie in 1907, further excavations were not undertaken until the late 1980s.

The White Monastery itself was founded in the first half of the 4th century ad. Its abbot between c. ad 388 and 446 was Shenute, one of the leading figures of the early monastic movement. The structure is enclosed by high walls of white limestone blocks and comprises a basilical church (35×75 m), probably founded c. ad 440, which is preceded by a western narthex, terminates in an eastern trefoil apse with a single, central altar and is flanked to the south by a long hall of unknown use. Galleries surmounted the hall and the basilica’s narthex and side aisles....

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....