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Coptic artwork adorns Cairo’s historic mosques

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Oct 17, 2020 CAIRO — Islamic artwork is just not the product of 1 nation or one individuals, writes Tharwat Okasha in his ebook, “The Encyclopedia of Islamic Photography.” Rather, it’s the merger of the humanities of a number of civilizations that flourished earlier than Islam, together with the Persian, Roman and Byzantine civilizations, because of the geographical growth of the Islamic state.  Mukhtar al-Kasbani, a professor of Islamic and Coptic antiquities at Cairo University, advised Al-Monitor, “Religious tolerance in Egypt instilled harmony between religion and art. Egyptian rulers had focused on the competences and skills of artists or architects without discrimination based on religion. This prompted Muslim architects to learn the decorative features of Coptic art. They subsequently developed these stylistic features and gave them an Islamic identity, turning them into what became known as Islamic art.”  He identified that Islamic artwork in Egypt is characterised by abstraction, simplicity and the usage of geometric and vegetal types, whereas rejecting the depiction of living beings. “All these characteristics are inspired from Coptic art. This appears clearly in the decorations covering the walls, facades and doors of mosques. Egyptian mosques and churches are simple in terms of architectural composition and design, unlike the Pharaonic temples, which are grandiose and dazzling.”  Kasbani commented on the marble columns topped by crosses which are discovered within the mosques of Historic Cairo. “These were brought from ruined buildings. No church was demolished to build a mosque since the Islamic conquest of Egypt. The crosses decorating the tops of the columns, or capitals, are a manifestation of Coptic art. There was no religious objection to using and preserving remnants of Coptic or Pharaonic monuments in building mosques.”  He added that there are mosques in Cairo the place capitals bear crosses, together with Al-Azhar Mosque, the place a human head seems in a single capital and one other bears a chicken. Al-Nasir Mohammad Ibn Qalawun Mosque, Al-Saleh Tala’i Mosque and the mosque of Al-Tanbugha Al-Mardani all include column capitals embellished by crosses. Visitors can nonetheless see the crosses or components of them. Some have been damaged or eroded over time. Tour information Nur Yahya agrees with Kasbani. He confirmed that lots of the mosques that had been constructed for the reason that Islamic conquest of Egypt in 641 AD by way of the Mamluk period embrace capitals depicting crosses that had been introduced from ruined church buildings or run-down Christian houses. Yahya advised Al-Monitor that the majority of Egypt’s Muslim rulers have preserved its Christian church buildings. “Some Pharaonic temples and Roman monasteries have turned into churches with the spread of Christianity and before the introduction of Islam. Pagan [imagery] in these churches were erased and their walls and pillars were decorated with crosses and passages from the Bible.”  Yahya identified that Coptic affect on Islamic artwork goes past columns from ruined church buildings, saying, “A marble Gothic door was introduced from one of many church buildings of town of Acre. It was used as a gate to the Al-Nasir Mohammad Ibn Qalawun Mosque in Al-Muizz Street in Cairo.” Yahya defined that domes maintain the identical non secular significance in mosques and church buildings corresponding to “the Church of Abu Serga [St. Sergius] and the Hanging Church within the Old Cairo neighborhood.” He added, “Domes are also present in mosques, the place we discover domes topped by a crescent.” Abdul Rahim Rayhan, an archaeologist and director of analysis, archaeological research and scientific publishing for the archeological websites of South Sinai, mentioned that Christian and Islamic structure in Egypt share quite a lot of symbolism owing to the mutual affect and cohesion of the 2 traditions. In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Rayhan talked about Islamic monuments constructed by Coptic architects, most notably Saeed bin Katib Al-Farghani, who designed Ibn Tulun Mosque. The mosque was constructed by order of Prince Ahmed Ibn Tulun, the governor of the Abbasid state in 877 AD, on the high of Jabal Yashkar overlooking the hills of Mokattam. “Ibn Tulun wanted to build a mosque that would withstand fire or flood, even if Egypt was entirely consumed or submerged. The mosque was supported by 160 brick piers instead of the marble columns used in most mosques,” he mentioned. Rayhan additionally talked about Al-Rifai Mosque within the Citadel Square in Cairo. “Khoshyar Hanim, the mother of Khedive Ismail, ordered its construction in 1869. The mosque was built over two stages and Hussein Fahmy Pasha was the original engineer. When Hoshiyar Qadin died in 1885, work was halted on the mosque and was resumed 25 years later at the order of Khedive Abbas Helmy II. Max Herz Pasha, a Hungarian Jewish architect and head of the Committee for the Conservation of Arab Monuments in Cairo, led the second phase of construction. This is why the mosque was built with a facade decorated with giant crosses.” Rayhan identified that the similarity between Coptic and Islamic arts attest to the shared values ​​and cohesion between the Egyptian nation’s two important non secular traditions.

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