Red Monastery Interior

Central trefoil (original end of the basilican church), adjacent spaces
Original sculpture and architecture well preserved from floor to clerestory (original ceiling level)

Recent conservation has yielded spectacular results. See, or, or
“Reflections on the Red Monastery Project: 2000 – 2008,” Bulletin of the American Research Center in Egypt, No. 194 (Winter 2009). 9-13. (available as a pdf)
Film of Interior
A film of these paintings, part of the exhibition "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through July 8th, is available at this link.

"Every inch of the domed interior of this Coptic site is lavishly decorated in the colorful, optically confounding jeweled style. A Virgin and Child with wide-open eyes sit atop dizzying tiers of real and painted columns, accentuated by patterns of braids, pyramids, scroll and dots."
Karen Rosenberg, New York Times, Friday, March 16 2012, p. C27.
Elizabeth Bolman narrates this film. She dates the Red Monastery church "around 500," with paintings in four phases during the next two centuries.
The film shows mainly the last two phases, elaborate ornamentation followed by figures of many holy men and the Virgin and Child.
(links for the exhibition at bottom of this page)
Conservation focused first on the North lobe of the trefoil, shown here.
On the left, 2002; on the right, 2011 (courtesy of Susan Jacobsen)
Three levels: half dome, middle register of niches, bottom register


In the half dome, the Virgin and Chiild between angels and holy men.

Restorers clearened a test patch of the dome painting in 2002, revealing fine early painting: the head of the Virgin.
In the pictureabove, the test patch area was deliberately blotted out because the results had not yet been published. Details
will appear in a web page under construction.

Beneath the semi-dome of the lobe comes a middle register (above) of columns between elaborate niches containing painted figures of monastic saints, including Shenute.
At floor level (below) the basic pattern is repeated, with the niches terminating above ground level.
In 2002 recent icons stood in the niches in front of the figural wall paintingsthat could no longer be seen well enough to be used in prayer After cleaning the original figures have reappeared, as well as more of the intriate but subtly colored abstract decoration

back to site map, or church exterior (with background information), forward to sculptural details (unfinished) and painting details (not yet present).

The following three links introduce the Metropolitan Museum's exhibtion on the period of these piantings and the museum's introduction to the Coptic segment