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Since the first man knew the meaning of settling in groups, then the aspects of human civilization have started. Nile River has had an essential role in the Egyptian civilization which has developed generating all kinds of arts, science and literature.

When Christianity entered Egypt through St. Mark the Apostle, it added perfection to the Egyptian culture which had had some defects, especially in terms of the existence of God, in addition to the sublime principles of Christianity concerning love, good, asceticism and mediation.

These teachings enriched the thought of the old Egyptian artists, in which he found his long-desired objective, and which clarified the shortages in the awareness of the One God.

Painting, which has been known in the Egyptian culture, has developed, but it had another way different from the past, as a result of the change of the old doctrine. Then the Coptic icon has come out, which is a development of the old Egyptian painting.

The Coptic artist inherited from his fathers a lot of symbols, work styles, materials and colours. And the icon has had a new concept of faith.

The usage of icons in church is derived to the poor people who used them as an easy means to explain the Christian doctrine and a true interpretation of the two testaments of the Holy Bible.

The icon in the Orthodox theological thought is the visual imagination or interpretation of the unseen nature of God.

The icon is teaching and preaching. It is the language used to transfer the theological, doctrinal and ritual patrimony, as well as it is the live memory of incarnation and salvation.

The icon has been started to be used since the first century A.C., when it became widespread copies of St. Mary and the Child Jesus icon which was portrayed by St. Luke the Evangelist. Then other icons diffused, which represented various arguments serving the Christian thought and faith.

It has diffused, particularly, in Egypt which, at that time, was the light of science, arts and literature in the old world.

By the fourth century A.C. and the diffusion of Christianity, the use of icons was generalised in churches and houses as well, for an educational and theological purpose, and as an easy and attractive educational means through basic concepts:

  • Icon is a visual interpretation of the unseen Godhead.
  • Icon brings to minds the sacrament of incarnation.
  • Icon is a true interpretation of the Holy Bible.
  • Icon is a mediator between heaven and earth.
  • Icon is a path to the Eternity.
  • Icon is a representation of the victorious church in the life of the striving church.
  • Icon is annunciation.
  • Icon is an effective means to build a live relationship with God.
  • Icon is an example for faithful people.
  • Icon is an effective mediator in the life of repentance.
  • Icon is a path to transfer the thought from earth to heaven.
  • Icon breaks time and place limits.

The Coptic icon is distinguished from other arts by its holy painting that explains holy topics and persons, and is subject to fixed principles in expression and work style. It does not follow the personal thought of the artist who paints it, but it has standard symbols and meanings for every used colour. The Coptic icon explains its characteristics as follows:

  • It represents the joyful life.
  • It is full of the spirit of victory and triumph.
  • It represents the spirit of love and gentleness.
  • It represents the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • It represents praying persons and saintly people.
  • It reveals the Divine Providence.
  • It explains the internal insight.