Fr. Moses Samaan" />
24 Responses to "The Slow Death of Iconography in the Coptic Orthodox Church"
  1. Fr Alexander Aziz, must read!!!!

  2. Abouna Moses says:

    It seems that our brethren in the Roman Catholic Church are going through a similar struggle:

  3. Bishop Suriel says:

    Dear Fr Moses, I can assure you that Coptic iconography is very alive and flourishing at St Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College in Melbourne. Our talented Coptic iconographer Ashraf Fayek teaches regularly and has his own studio on site. He is running a course this semester as we speak. Not only this but he reproduces these beautiful icons on canvas and mounted on wood in a very wonderful way.

  4. Here is a website we are developing for Coptic iconography.

  5. Thank you, Sayedna, I am aware of the wonderful program in Melbourne. As I mentioned in the post, I am sure that Your Grace and the other hierarchs of the Church are working towards establishing programs such as these. I hope Coptic faithful will embrace them.

  6. Peter S. Fam says:

    I have a lot to say about this but will refrain but I will say I agree fully with abouna’s blog post with the above noted exceptions.

    Just want to see what classical Coptic Icon Iconography looked like behold the church of Sts. Bishai & Pigol in the Red Monastery

  7. Stephane Rene – your thoughts?

  8. My thoughts are too many to discuss on this FB forum. Needless to say I totally agree with Abouna Moses’ observations. He is one of very few people who has realised that there is a problem with Coptic iconography today. Monica Rene has addressed this very subject in Coptic Civilization (Editor Gawdat Gabra, AUC 2014) in her chapter on contemporary Coptic iconography. But the problem is in reality unfortunately bigger and deeper than Abouna describes. Shools are a great idea, but where do you get the teachers? Where do they train and who trains them? I have been talking about this for many years, but obviously to deaf ears… Who knows the Coptic iconographic tradition, the canon left by I.Fanous, the symbolic vocabulary? Everyone is mostly interested in “developing their own style”. The problem is they can’t and should not even be interested in that. It’s a problem of attitude more than anything else. Iconography is not about ego and individualism. It’s about humility and prayer. As Abouna very rightly writes, Coptic iconography died on FaceBook.

  9. Mark Atia....aka Flubber says:

    The power of icons is amazing with young toddlers. I started teaching my daughter of 18 months the story written on various icons in our home and in our prayer corner. It’s something that would be tough for her to understand if I explained the stories to her verbally without the assistance of icons. Now she must kiss all the icons in the church during services because she has built a relationship with all icons she sees. The amazing part is she can tell the difference between an icon and a normal picture at such a young age. I’m looking forward to your future posts about iconography. May God bless your service.

  10. This thread has gone all quiet… Was it something I said?

  11. Amir Ramzi says:

    Coptic Orthodox Icon art is not alive in most Coptic Orthodox churches & monasteries in Egypt….

    Most of our Coptic Orthodox Bishops & priests prefer the western Italian panting…..
    so sad….

    So sad too that the Coptic Catholic Churches use the Coptic Icons as well in their Churches & monasteries right now by the blessed of Pope of Rome…. No Comment!!

    Can H.G Bishop Suriel tell H.H Pope of Alexandria Tawdros II to make the Coptic Orthodox Icons as order to all our Coptic Orthodox churches and stop them to use the Italian western style any more….?!!!

    To be honest I feel very jealous when I visit any Greek Orthodox Church…. it’s make me feel like I’m in the heaven in the earth coz of their amazing icons….

    when I pray in Coptic Orthodox church have the western Italian panting in the walls I feel like I’m praying in Latin Roman Catholic church….. so sad….

    God have Mercy ?

  12. Amir Ramzi says:

    Search about this page on Facebook & Click Like? please…
    more than 3000 Coptic Orthodox Icons photos and more.. ?

    Coptic Orthodox Icons.(Egypt)

  13. Amir Ramzi says:

    Abouna Moses Samaan read this plz

  14. Amir Ramzi says:

    Abouna Moses Samaan
    Click Like on the most great Coptic Orthodox Icons page in Facebook…
    More than 3000 Coptic Icons…

  15. Abouna Moses says:

    For those interested in commissioning authentic Coptic icons for their churches or homes, here is the website of Dr. Stéphane René, one of the senior disciples of Dr. Isaac Fanous, who founded the Neo-Coptic School of iconography:

  16. We need St. john of Damascus to defend “the Coptic iconoclasm” that we are witnessing nowadays. Good article Abouna please continue.

  17. Andrew Gould says:

    I’m glad to hear that someone in the Coptic Church is expressing this concern. I am a church designer and liturgical artist in the Orthodox Church (OCA) and I work closely with talented iconographers all over the world. I also founded the Orthodox Arts Journal. So I have some expertise in this area of contemporary iconography. I would like to point out that the Orthodox Church also almost completely lost her iconography over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, and all that was left by 1880 was Italian-style painting and unskilled copying of old icons. But after that there was an international movement to revive medieval iconography in both the Greek and Russian traditions, and this movement continues to this day. Now we have hundreds of good iconographers in the Orthodox Church, and dozens of truly great ones.

    Nevertheless, even in the Orthodox Church, good original iconography is still more the exception than the rule. More common are printed reproduction icons and those artistically inept so-called ‘Neo Byzantine’ icons that are dead and opaque and really look nothing like medieval art. But progress is being made, and every year there are more really good iconographers doing important commissions. But I would point out that it has taken us over a hundred years to get as far as we have, so reviving Coptic iconography may be an equally long road.

    Fr. Moses is correct that the best thing going on in Coptic Iconography right now is that there are conservators and curators all over the world restoring and publicizing the great heritage of medieval Coptic painting. This is a most important start. It was exactly this process in 19th-century Russia that sparked the revival of iconography, because for once talented artists saw the beauty of medieval Russian icons, and decided to devote their careers to painting in that style. And this is how it must happen in the Coptic world. Talented art students must decide that Coptic iconography is a genre worthy of their attention. Only then, will we see great new Coptic icons.

    So far, I am not aware of anyone doing this. There are several ‘Neo-Coptic iconographers’ (some of whom are referenced in the comments here), but I feel I must say that their style of painting does not resemble medieval Coptic work in any way whatsoever. It is somewhat reminiscent of 1960s stained-glass windows, and sometimes of Celtic manuscript illuminations, but it simply doesn’t look anything like the frescoes and manuscripts from ancient Egyptian churches. I have no idea why they call such painting ‘Neo-Coptic style’.

    If I may offer a suggestion to priests wanting to make a dent in this problem, I would say the following: Stock you parish bookstores with art books about medieval Egyptian/Ethiopian/Syrian art. Hang up posters in the parish hall that show frescoes from the ancient monasteries. Bring in art historians to give lectures on the restoration projects at these monuments. In general, educate your people so they actually know what Coptic iconography once looked like, long ago when it was a great and living liturgical art. That way, one talented person among them may someday be inspired to actually paint in this style, and the rest of them will be able to recognize it for what it is.

    • Abouna Moses says:

      Thank you, Andrew, for your valuable contribution and suggestions. We certainly need more studies of past and present Coptic art leading to a revival similar to what you described among our Eastern Orthodox brethren. A local priest raised a good point, I think: Did the Coptic Orthodox Church ever have a strong iconographical tradition? Perhaps we need to answer that question to know exactly what needs to be revived.

    • Mandy says:

      I believe it is so important that our children, and all of us in the Coptic church understand the Icons. I am so thankful for how it has inspired me. Could you please help direct me to whom I could work with in starting a book for children in the church.

      Thank you so much!
      Mandy Rizk

  18. Mandy says:

    Oh my! I am so thankful I stumbled across this. I am an american convert, my husband is Egyptian. We now have a young daughter. I would really like to write a book for children about the Icons in the Coptic church. Just the little study I have done in Icons have made me understand and grow so much in my faith and understanding of God and the church. I am searching all over for resources etc.. Do you have anyone I could talk to about this? Thank you thank you! I pray that this dream will be realized and that the children in the Coptic church will be able to carry on all that Icons were meant to teach us. Mandy Rizk

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