Minnesota in Egypt

Early Christian Egypt: Timeline

first to fifth centuries of our era:

For futher information about these events, not all equally well documented, click on dancer at left of appropriate century. Most underlined words are links to the glossary, where the relevant entry will be at the top of the screen. Two link to the bibliography, and two to the website of the Coptic Church. For additional images, click on image at right (the pages may take a long time to load).

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later works of art reflecting these developments.

early: Flight into Egypt (Mathew 2:12-23)

late: St. Mark comes to convert Egypt.

For the importance of both these traditions to present day Egyptian Christians, see www.coptic.net. 


Flight into Egypt, Giotto, c 1305, Arena Chapel, Padua (detail).

Earliest contemporary documentation for Christians in Egypt. 

Beginning of century: first fragments of New Testament text: Gospel of St. John.

Mid-century: papyri of additional gospels, not in New Testament

End--possible date of composition of "apocryphal" life of virgin Mary.


Incident from apocryphal life of Mary, Tres Riches Heures, c. 1415, (detail)


Honoring the martyrs,the Coptic church begins its calendar in August of the the year we call 284, the year when Diocletian became emperor. so 2001 is 1716/7.


Beginnings of "eremitic" monasticism:

About 275, St. Antony, retires to the desert. (He dies in 356, aged 105). 

St. Anthony flies from the temptation of gold: Fra Angelico, 1430.


Great Persecution begins in 303. It gives rise to many martyrs' stories in Egypt.



Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, condemns "apocryphal" literature, helps define orthodox doctrine.

mid century: probable date of most "Gnostic" books found at Nag Hammadi, 50 miles south of White Monastery.

Beginnings of "cenobitic" monasticism: Pachomius, d.379, founds nine monasteries west and south of the present White Monastery. 

White Monastery founded.

Rufinus says10,000 monks and 20,000 nuns in Egypt:  St. Shenute becomes abbot of Wthite Monastery

St. Athanasius (from www.theologie.uni.erlangen.de)

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no link: no additional information

451 Council of Chalcedon separates most Egyptian Christians from the majority elsewhere, creating what we now call the Coptic church. For the modern Coptic view, see www.coptic,net.

Possible date for compilation of "Sayings of the Desert Fathers," recording stories about Egyptian hermits

 Under St. Shenute, the White Monastery is said to have housed 2200 monks and 1800 nuns. 

Cassian. a traveller from Gaul, writes two books about Egyptian monasticism, and founds two monasteries in Europe.

Icon of Moses the Black in the Monastery Church of Christ of the Hills Monastery, New Sarov, Texas. He was martyred in 405. Some of his actions are recorded in the "Sayings."

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