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Christianity and the Church in Egypt, Ancient and Modern.
Mr. Leider, the English Missionary in Cairo, and rector of the Episcopal Church in the Place Esbekiah, which I frequently attended, may be almost said to be at the head of the Coptic Church in Cairo. The Coptic patriarch calls him his father, allows the young Copts to go to his school, and sanctions the distribution of tracts of the Church. His scholars in the nizam dress add interest to the service by reading clearly the English. He has studied fully the Coptic language, and says that it bears a relation to the Sanscrit alone of all living languages. As to affinities with the Gipsey language, the name of Copt is doubtless derived from yvm or vulture, the name of Egypt, and in the Copt you perceive characteristics of the ancient Egyptians. In the finely chiselled features of a young Copt in Cairo, educated by Mr. Leider, I could see a resemblance to one of the Egyptians in the tombs of the kings which showed all the marks of the same race. The head of the Church, the patriarch of Alexandria, like the patriarch of the Greek Church, answers to the Pope of Rome, deriving his descent from St. Mark, and is at the head of a church that has nobly preserved its unity for eighteen centuries, which Athanasius has adorned; (but we leave this to Church History •,) he has now little left but his title. He is elected by the fathers of St. Anthony or the convents of the Natron lakes. Next him is the Mutram or bishop, who is appointed by the Egyptian patriarchs; one is sent to Abyssinia to preserve its branch there. The superiors of the convents are called Gommos, next to the bishop; and the monks or priests have the title aboona or fathers.
The Copts have the character of being avaricious, sensual, and hypocritical. They dress in black turbans and robes and seem a blasted race. Some are very rich, and have several wives and slaves. One living next to our hotel on the Esbekiah, had a beautiful odalisque, who sometimes came to the window adorned with gold and jewels. Some are officers of the government. They frequently embrace Moslemism for a valuable marriage, and many Moslem corruptions have crept into their service, which, like their ancestors' religion (the Egyptian), is administered by the priests in a Coptic tongue, not understood by the people. In Cairo they are scribes, tailors, jewellers, and perfumers, and club in one profession in different places.
Still corrupt as the Church is, we cannot but look upon it with interest. In their fasts, the longest of which is Lent, and their libraries of the Church fathers, and in the stern integrity in which for certainly thirteen centuries, and perhaps eighteen, they have maintained their religion, we must look upon them with hope.
Of the seven convents which alone remain of the numbers onee in Egypt, the two of St. Anthony and St. Paul, seventy-six miles across the desert from Benisooef, (whose patrons are St. Anthony of the Thebaid and St. Paul or Mar Bolus, by whom they were founded,) and the convents of the Natron lakes, St. Macarius, and Dayr Suriam (built by Honnes a holy personage), Amba Bishoi and Dayr Baramous, the latter rather Greek and the rest Coptic, and of the Arabic, Coptic, Syriac MSS. which they possess; Curzon in his narrative of the Levant and Wilkinson in his Hand-Book fully treat. Their fasts are long, they must never marry unless with virgins, they reject images but regard pictures. There are other convents throughout the Nile, a visit to some of which I have described. Here the priests marry, but are much respected. These are Gebel Coskam in Upper Egypt; Dayr el Adra or Gebel-el-Tayr, Bibbeh, Boash, Negadeh, Aboo Honnes, Amboo, Samoud, in the Fayaum; Girgeh, Abydos, Ikhmim, Mellawi, Sook Feshieh, near Menoof; Amba Shnoodah, near Soohajz; the Red and White Monastery El Shenood.*
Tlie White Monastery El Shenood.—This monastery is visited from Soohajz. It was founded by the Empress Helena, is built in the style of an Egyptian temple; a long oblong building with a cornice. It stands alone with scarce a tree about it in a wide vast plain. It was with difficulty that I could get admittance. The monks have separate cells, and these are in the sides of the building. We found only a few books of the Romish service here. I had half promised my friend of the propaganda at Ikhmim, that I would visit this monastery. It is perhaps the only building in the world at present, where Christ's
* In this convent I waa shown the name of St. Athanasius written in Coptic.
religion is practised in a church of ancient Egyptian style of building. It is sometimes called the Dair or temple. This, as well as the convents of the Natron lakes, and those of Tahta, and Girgeh, and Thebes, and Negadeh, have been fully described by Curzon, in his monasteries of the Levant. The monks are willing to receive donations from you, and the manner they have of showing this here, as well as in all those up the river, makes you feel as if they were hardly of your religion.
Beside these convents, there are three in the city of Cairo, two at old Cairo, one of which has beautiful gardens, where the patriarch resides, and a beautiful view. And in one the grotto is shown where the virgin lived:
"Under a palm-tree by the green old Nile,
I would not put aside the traditions that in this grotto the Saviour, with his mother and Joseph, had rested while in Egypt. That at the sycamore-tree which grows near Heliopolis they stopped, or that at this fountain they drank, it is a pleasant old tradition, certainly as good and authentic as many of those which the Roman •Catholic priests get up at Jerusalem.
The Church of St. George. There stands a convent where they show you the grotto of St. Sergius, and where, says tradition, Mary and Joseph lived and slept. Near lives the patriarch of Alexandria.
There is one convent at Alexandria, which is called the convent of St. Mark. The Copts here pretend that they possess the head and body of St. Mark, but Leo Africanus says, that the Venetians carried it away. It is filled with paintings of his martyrdom and mission.
With an Account of a Visit to the Chaldsean Christians of Kurdistan, and the Yezidis, or Devil-Worshippers; and an Inquiry into the Manners and Arts of the Ancient Assyrians.
BY AUSTEN HENRY LAYARD, ESQ., D.C. L.
With Introductory Note By Prof. E. Robinson, D. D., LL. D. Biustrated i^ith 13 Plates and Maps, and 90 Woodcuts. 2 vols. 8vo. Cloth. $450.
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"As a record of discoveries it is equanv wonderful and important; confirming in many particulars the incidental histories of Sacred Writ, disentombing temple-palaces from the sepulchre of •fles, and recovering the metropolis of a wonderful nation from the long night of oblivion."— Com Adrertistr.
Crawls, Sltantnrar, nnft Sisrimmrs— Se tip i£ast.
and its Remains. — Continued.
"Taking this only as a book of travels, we have read none for along time more interesting and instructive." — Quarterly Review.
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"This is, we think, THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY WORK OF THE PRESENT AGE, whether with reference to the wonderful discoveries it describes, its remarkable verification of our early bilbical history, or of the talent, courage, and perseverance of its author. • ••'••• We will only add m conclusion, that in these days, when the fulfilment of prophecy is engagmg so much attention, we cannot but consider that the work of Mr. Layard will be found to afford many extraordinary proofs of biblical history." — London Times.
"Of the historical value of his discoveries, too high an estimate can hardly be formed." — N. Y. Recorder.
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Egypt and Its Monuments,
As Illustrative of Scripture History.
Illustrated with Engravings from the Works of Chamfollion, Roselliki,
1 his work presents a compreheniive and authentic, and at the same time popvilar view of all that has been brought to light by modern travellers, illustrative of the manners and customs, art*, architecture, and domestic life of the ancient Egyptians—with referen.ee to other ancient remain) in the "Old and New World."
V The following are somo of the architectural illustrattons, beautifully executed m tmt, bjr Sarony & Major:—
Sphinx nnd Pyramids, Interior of a Tumb,
Great Temple of ATamor, Koom— OmAos.
Statues of Memnon, Thebei, interior of Great Temple, Aboo Simbel, $c.