A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Annual Saint Patrick's Day Post on the Links Between Ireland and Egypt

Coptic Wheel Cross
Sunday is Saint Patrick's Day, and traditionally each year I repeat my 2009 post on the tenuous but genuine evidence of links between the early Christian church of Ireland the early Coptic church.

Coptic Ankh Cross
There were certainly links of some sort; there is an Irish pilgrimage book describing visiting the desert of Scetis (Wadi Natrun); there is a reference to three Egyptian monks burief in Ulster; a bottle for holy water or oil found in Ireland shows the twin camels of the pilgrim shrine of Saint Menas near Alexandria, and perhaps most obviously both Copts and Celts used the wheeled cross emblem. In the years since my original post, the Faddan More Psalter, dug up in an Irish bog, has a lining of Egyptian papyrus

Irish Standing Wheel Cross
Even Saint Patrick himself reportedly studied for the priesthood at the Abbey of Lérins off the southern coast of France, an abbey following the rule of St. Anthony of Egypt and perhaps including Egyptian monks. The Christian Mediterranean was much more unified in those days of late antiquity, and before the Coptic Church and the Western churches divided after the Council of Chalcedon.

Celtic Wheel Cross
(The Irish dating for Easter was also different from that in Western Europe, and nearer the eastern tradition.)

For more details see the original 2009 post.

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