The Gift of the Word

Coptic Manuscript Frontispiece

Frontispiece of Coptic prayer book, early 18th-C.

The frontispiece features a decorative architectural archway using geometric repetition and graceful interlacing.  In vividly colored script, the Arabic text begins the prayer cycle that in translation reads: "With the help of God and his goodness towards us, we begin our hourly exalted praise..."

These beautifully illustrated manuscript leaves originate from a Coptic book of prayer commonly referred to as an Agpeya.  Intended for use as a daily prayer book, the hand-copied manuscript incorporated bilingual liturgical text with pages adorned by ornamental decoration above the hourly prayers and hymns.

The texts are accompanied by colorful pen and ink illustrations of mounted warrior saints, a traditional theme within Coptic Christian art.  The images and prayers contained in these pages are representative of Coptic manuscript production during Ottoman rule in Egypt.

Click here to hear more information about selected pages of the Agpeya on the Gift of the Word podcast.

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