Art and culture from Christian Egypt on show at Girona’s CaixaForum

"Other Egypt" brings together over 200 pieces formally preserved in the Louvre, many of which had not never left Paris since their arrival. The exhibition pictures the Christian heritage of Egypt; from the Roman times to the Arab conquest in the 7th century, Egypt was a Christian country.

CNA / Tania Tapia

September 30, 2011 12:12 AM

Girona (ACN).- When one thinks of Egypt the pyramids, pharaohs and Islamic temples come to mind. However, Egypt has a close link with Christianity as well. The country built around the Nile had in times of the Roman Empire, like many people in the region, Christianity as its religion. Following the Arab conquest in the seventh century AD Egypt adopted Islam as the religion of the state, but the some Christians remained. Therefore, Egypt has nowadays Christian art dating from the times before and after the Arab conquest.

The exhibition 'Another Egypt', which can be seen at the CaixaForum in Girona from September 16th of to January 8th, presents a review of the art and culture of the Egyptian Coptic Christians. Over 200 pieces coming from the Louvre Museum allow visitors explore the culture, daily life, religious items and temples from the time. The exhibition was firstly displayed in Lleida and now in Girona. Finally it will travel to the CaixaForum in Palma, in Mallorca. Many of the pieces are leaving Paris for the first time.

Fabrics, carpets, paintings, ceramics, costumes, jewelry and tools used in daily life fill the exhibition halls of the CaixaForum in Girona. This retrospective displays life of Coptic Christians in Egypt, is the second major exhibition to be organized in Girona by the social foundation of the Catalan savings bank ‘La Caixa’. The show opened at the CaixaForum in Lleida and has moved to Girona before making a third stop in Palma de Mallorca.

The exhibition was made possible by an agreement signed in 2009 between the CaixaForum and the Louvre Museum to share work. In fact, according to one of the exhibition’s curators, Dominique Benezeth, many of the pieces are leaving Paris for the first time. Benezeth detailed that the room where the most brilliant pieces of this time is is under construction for the last three years. This has allowed them to choose which pieces exhibit abroad.

The etymological origin of the word 'Coptic' means 'the Egyptian' explained Benezeth, but, after the Arab conquest of the country in the mid-seventh century, the word referred to Egyptian Christians. This Christian era was born out of the gradual demise in Egypt of the Roman era and lasted until the Arab conquest. Most of the pieces in the exhibition date from the fourth century to the twelfth.

According to the commissioner, the Coptic culture was important during the Roman period. Between, the 5th to the 7th century the country of the pyramids was totally Christian. Currently between 10 and 15% of Egypt’s population is Christian. Due to its modern day relevance, the exhibition has incorporated the theme of every-day life, displaying items related to clothing, spinning, cooking, as well as more artistic pieces such as jewelry, paintings, temple gates and other examples of art of the time.

Benezeth stressed the importance of four paintings that are to be exhibited for the first time since being moved from a Museum in a town in northern Egypt in the seventies. The commissioner said that the French archeologists had facilities to excavate in Egypt until the seventies. Interaction with the exhibition has been encouraged with activities such as guided tours, chats with the curators, family visits and school days organized regularly.