Friday, 14 December 2007

Book Review: The Churches of Egypt

Al Ahram Weekly

The Churches of Egypt -- From the Journey of the Holy Family to the Present Day, by Gawdat Gabra and Gertrud J.M. van Loon, edited by Carolyn Ludwig with photographs by Sherif Sonbol. Review by Jill Kamil (herself the author of Christianity in the Land ofthe Pharaohs):

The Churches of Egypt is the brainchild of Carolyn Ludwig. Addressing the invited guests, Ludwig explained how the book came about. During her travels to Egypt over the last 25 years, she said, she had come to appreciate the rich Christian heritage that is woven through the country's history "along with the threads of its more famous Pharaonic past." She noted that the brief reference to the Flight of the Holy
family in the Gospel of Matthew "offers a glimpse into the three-and-a-half years they spent in Egypt", but that most of the stories about this important episode in Jesus's life "are recorded only in the various infancy narratives".

When, in 2000, the Coptic Orthodox Church defined the route of the Holy Family's journey, she said she was determined to follow in their footsteps. She did so, sand was deeply moved by the humanity of the stories "that are told, until this day, about the few years in the life of Christ spent in Egypt," as well as by the humble simplicity of Egypt's early churches which stand "in stark contrast to the granite and marble, the gold inlays and bronze statues of churches in Rome..."

Ludwig travelled in the company of photographer Sherif Sonbol, whose photographs, she wrote in the introduction to her book, "reveal the beauty of Egypt's ancient and modern churches and monasteries, all of which testify to the determination of the Coptic Church for nearly two millennia to keep the Christian faith alive in Egypt -- often in the face of adversity."

I can only describe the book as a hefty publication. It weighs all of two kilogrammes, and I use that adjective advisedly because it is not only large in size, but substantial in content. It covers churches of all denominations -- from the Delta and Sinai to Cairo and its suburbs; it includes Fayoum and Upper Egypt, and even the most remote of monasteries, some of which I have never visited.

See the above page for the full story.

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