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Preserving Coptic heritage

A renovated Coptic Museum opens its doors to visitors CAIRO: Displaying over 15,000 precious old Coptic monuments gathered from various Egyptian governorates, the Coptic museum has recently been renovated to include a new tube uniting both wings for a better display of the artifacts of Coptic culture. The main entrance to the museum is across …


A renovated Coptic Museum opens its doors to visitors

CAIRO: Displaying over 15,000 precious old Coptic monuments gathered from various Egyptian governorates, the Coptic museum has recently been renovated to include a new tube uniting both wings for a better display of the artifacts of Coptic culture.

The main entrance to the museum is across from the metro station of Mari Girgis, right beside the Mari Girgis Church in Old Cairo.

The thematic structure of the museum allows visitors to experience the transition of historical periods of Christianity. The various exhibits are spread over two wings including 26 different halls. Each hall includes unique masterpieces of stone, antiques, metal, glass and writing, all of which explain Christian history.

Philip Faltas, the general manager of the museum, said it includes certain pieces of great importance to Christian culture.

Room 17 is a huge separate room only for the Book of Psalms. The book, along with a precious key and some bones, is exhibited in a large glass partition decorated with small Christian crosses. The book dates back to the fourth century and was found in Beni Sueif, says Faltas.

Other monuments narrate the story of the holy family and their escape to Egypt, along with some antiques that mark the transitions between the Christian historical periods, he says.

According to Faltas, Marcos Simaika Pasha was the founder of the museum and is considered the first Egyptian to establish a museum for monuments in Egypt. He was the director from 1908 until his death in 1944. The museum was inaugurated in 1910 as a home for antiquities and monuments of old churches and monasteries all over Egypt.

During the early 1930s, the Coptic Museum was under the authority of antiquities and included additional Coptic monuments that were found in other old churches. Throughout this period a new wing was established, with the old section founded in 1947 and inaugurated by King Farouk.

A serious of improvements started in 1984 and resumed in 1992 after the earthquake of that year. The Supreme Council of Antiquities decided to maintain the old wing and restructure some parts of the museum.

Regarding the latest improvements that have taken place at the museum, a tube was established to link the two wings of the museum together in order to facilitate visitor’s tours around the museum so that it would appear as one united building.

About 200 to 250 visitors of different nationalities visit the museum daily. Kenneth Kelly, an American tourist and a visitor to the museum, says he was impressed by the structure of the museum. He says the exhibits are quite educational and informative, as they are clearly labeled to explain the items’ history and original location.

What I find very interesting is the overlap between old Christianity and paganism, and here they are both combined together, says Kelly.

Yann Rosiere, a French visitor, says he liked the icons section the most. He also says the way the pieces are exhibited is very interesting, as it allowed him the chance to understand the transitional phases of Christianity.

The museum is open from 9am to 5pm.

Click here for all our museum listings.

Topics: Gamma Islamiya

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