UM Library Celebrates Language

Early Christianity in Egypt

Early Christianity in Egypt:
Shenoute of Atripe (ca. 348-466)

Shenoute was born in the mid-fourth century, and around 371 he joined the so-called White Monastery, located on the Upper Nile north of Thebes, just outside the town of Atripe—now the modern city of Sohag. Eventually, he succeeded his uncle as Abbot, remaining as such until his death in 466. As the spiritual leader of a monastic community comprising probably thousands of monks and nuns, he wrote numerous speeches and letters that express his views on monastic life and what he considered the orthodox principles Christians should follow. His two major works, Canon and Discourses, place Shenoute as the most important Coptic writer of Late Antiquity.

The Special Collections Library holds 20 parchment leaves containing works by Shenoute.  At a certain point in its history, the White Monastery library mostly held the works of Shenoute as copied in the eighth and ninth centuries.  From the end of the eighteenth century onwards, Europeans, and the monks themselves, started dismembering the codices and taking away gatherings and single leaves.  Thus fragments of Shenoute’s works ended in numerous museums and libraries of Europe and North America. Our leaves were purchased by Francis Kelsey, professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Michigan, in Cairo in May 1926.

Peter Lombard with quill and knife

Peter Lombard with quill and knife, from a 13th century manuscript of his Gloss on St. Paul.