A large Coptic/Byzantine Sandstone Stele, ca. 6th - 7th century CE
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The rectangular slab of sandstone features a deeply-carved cross surrounded by a medallion, the edges of the cross touching the medallion's inner edge. Coptic sculptural elements such as this were often carved with deeply undercut patterns to intensify the play of light and shadow. This sculptural style was popular throughout the Byzantine world during the 6th century.
Christian monasticism began in the Egyptian desert in the 4th century, where many Coptic Christians had fled a century earlier to avoid persecution. With Constantine's acceptance of Christianity, Coptic monasteries were founded all over Egypt, and over time simple monastic structures grew into lavish complexes. The Monastery of Apa Jeremias at Saqqara, for example, founded in the 6th century, began with monks living in tombs, but as the monastery grew, several grand churches with lavish decorations were built, as well as many chapels, public buildings, and complexes of cells (rooms) for each monk. Stelea such as this example were created for such monastic complexes. Many were funerary stelae, and embedded into walls or floors near the tombs. Others were decorative and were part of larger structures.
Dimensions: Height: 14 inches (35.5 cm), Length: 11 1/2 inches (29.2 cm), Width: 3 3/4 inches (9.5 cm)
Condition: Some surface losses, and a few minor spots of staining, overall intact and in good condition. Custom mounted.
Provenance: Ambassador Morris Draper, was a career diplomat and member of the State Department's Foreign Service for over 35 years. Ambassador Draper served the Department of State and the American people faithfully in diplomatic postings in the Near East, Europe, and East Asia, including as Consul General in Jerusalem and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He was a key player in the Camp David Peace Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979. From 1981-1983, he served as President Reagan's Special Middle East Envoy in negotiations regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon. In many ways our current efforts on behalf of a peaceful, sovereign, independent Lebanon build upon the work Ambassador Draper began over two decades ago.