Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Coptic and Celtic

I do not know all the details, but linguists have noticed a certain verbal affinities between Coptic and Celtic. A while back, this blog noted the discovery of the 8th century Faddan More Latin Psalter in an Irish bog. Recent conservation has revealed that this vellum codex contains papyrus cartonnage in its bindings, perhaps suggesting at least some sort of relationship between ancient Irish and Egyptian monasticism.
[Announced on the Evertype Coptic Mailing List]

15 Comments:

Mitchell Powell said...

I might be confused here, but it seems to me that the first sentence of this post might be intended as "I do not know all the details . . ."

Christian Askeland said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I seem to spoil the story but it could also be that a book acquired, say, in Italy (papyrus was exported widely), and brought to Ireland, was reduced to material for binding after the end of its useful life. And yes, Irish monks traveled the world, but would they intermingle with Copts after Chalcedon (or did they start to accrue mileage before the 450s?)?

Christian Askeland said...

Did Irish monks travel the world?

I do not know of any evidence that papyrus was exported widely in the 8th century, but, yes, the cover could have been an import. I think that papyrus may been grown in Sicily, also.

One would not want to underestimate the peculiarity of finding Egyptian (Sicilian?) material in an 8th century parchment codex deposited in an Irish bog. Am I wrong? Do we know of papyrus appearing in European codices of this era?

Indeed, there are a number of explanations for how this material came to rest in an Irish bog.

Anonymous said...

> Did Irish monks travel the world?

Of course they did! There are even apocryphal stories that bring them to North America before 1492.

Sure, it would be hard to find Egyptian papyrus in Western Europe in the 8th century but a book that ends up in bookbinding (if it was a book) is probably considerably older. As for what book-covers of that age might hide within them, not many librarians would dare let people check ... at least not before CT scanning (or the like) of cartonnage becomes routine.

Whatever happened, this is indeed an interesting find: potential evidence for the circulation of books (or other writing) during the "Dark Ages".

Cormac said...

Interesting timing of this thread. Last night the RTE, the irish national tv and radio company broadcast a documentory on the book. It is a pslater bounded in leather using egyption binding methods. The cover was covered in papyrus. Papyrus does not survive in humid conditions and Ireland has 90% humidity all year around. So it was buried shortly after its arrival in Ireland. The tv program did assume a coptic connection due to its similarity to manuscripts produced in egypt but the script was characteristic of an Irish hand. There are similar psalters in St.Gallas in switzerland in a monastory founded by irish monks. We are aware that a Coptic monastory of learning also existed in Switzerland and perhaps its origins are from here. Regardless of origin, early Christian Ireland was monastic in form and remote in location as was the preference of the desert fathers of egypt. Today, St. Anthony holds a strong position in catholic faith in Ireland and the origins of this devotion are noted as Coptic. Ireland was never

Cormac said...

Continued.. Ireland was never conquered by the roman empire. The romans are responsible to helping to spread christianity across Europe. Their christian influence surely came across the Irish sea from Wales and Scotland -this in undeniable. However, early christianity in Ireland was monastic in form and remote in location. Preferences akin with the desert fathers of Egypt. Their patron, St.Anthony is today an important figure in Irish catholic faith. The coptic connection is also undeniable. After the saxons and other germanic tribes finally brought an end to the Roman empire and distructed the roman religion, they failed to conquer Ireland. Irish monasticism remained intact. It was after this that the Irish monks went forth and established monastories in Europe.
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uered by the Romans, who helped to spread christianity through europe. The germanic peoples/ saxons eventually ousted the romans over a long period and to an extend drove christianity out too. Ireland was not invaded by the saxons either. Ireland would have been a save land. Monasticism thrived in these times. Maybe the irish monks can be credited as keepers of the faith during difficult times. Regardless, it was after the fall of the roman empire that Irish monks went out and established monastories all over much of Eu
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Cormac said...

Apologies, I posted from a blackberry phone and didn't realise the last comment published in such a mess. Anyway, the comment about importing papyrus is not a likely theory because the material would have had no use in humid Ireland. The book was buried narrow side down and covered over with animal hide. it is assumed it was burried in a rush for safe keeping and its keeper did not survive to retrieve it. The location of nearby Clonmacnoise may be significant. Maybe the psalter was not a welcomed text .. Assumptions on the burial can only be fanciful. We do know the early Coptic sect was heavily involved in education of monks and in the writing of manuscripts so Coptic influence is highly probable in the source of the Fadden Mor Psalter. It is due to go on display in the national museum of Ireland in 2011.

Cormac said...

One point they did not show on the tv documentory is if there was an investigation into the fabric of the leather cover. Was the animal native to Ireland, Eygpt, Italy, Switzerland?? Surely that can be found out.

Cormac said...

Another interesting observation is that the Gaelic word for Jesus is "Iosa". The coptic word for Jesus is pronounces identically (eeosah). Also there have been linguistic connections made by an egyption university and Arus na Gaeilge at NUI Galway, between the anciant art of Irish seannos singing (sounds like a trible war dance chant) and anancient egyptian tribal melody. The connections go on and on. A piece of porceline found in north africa had a map of the mediteranian, the spanish, portugese and french coast line and to the north, the island of Ireland. It included ship routes to Galway. It is long believed that the people of the clagagh in Galway were on Moorish origin. Their clothing and skin colour was for sure. The female head scarf the habbit was sported by these ladies long before Irish nuns adopted it. This head piece is thought to have had north african influence. So did the head dress of christian nuns and Islam develop independently or are they connected?

Cormac said...

As soon as Egyptian monasticism became famous people came from all over "The World" at that time. Including Ireland. While there were some Egyptian missionaries that went North, the opposite was more the norm.

A good bit of "Celtic" culture was lifted from Egypt, The Celtic Cross for instance was an direct copy of earlier Coptic ones. The Irish also were some of the few Catholics (other then the Greek Catholics of the time) that had any proficency with Koine Greek which was something they got from their contact with the Coptic Church, besides their introduction to monasticism.

From what I've read, some Coptic monks had fled to Ireland and lived there the duration of their lives. They may have brought with them manuscripts and traditions from their homeland. But the psalter from Fadden Mor has tell-tale signs of Irish hand script.

Christian Askeland said...

The Coptic name for Jesus was the same as the Greek.

Anonymous said...

I imagine it would be hard to know the Coptic name for Jesus if it was never spelled out.

Frank Lyons said...

There is a tradition of Egyptian monks in Ireland. A suggestion of Maurice Sinclair at Alexandria School of Theology, refers to a forthcoming work which cites James O'Laverty, An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol. II, Dublin, 1880, pp. 312-314,460: "The litany of Aengus, written AD 799, 'supplicates the seven holy Egyptian monks who lie in desert Ulidh'. It seems this church was called Desert Ulidh-- the desert of Ulster-- either because of its proximity to Kilultagh, or perhaps that territorial designation extended further. It is believed that there was a monastery in the district of Dundesert having origins between the fifth and seventh centuries. Dundesert is a small district less than two miles from Crumlin village. It is listed in Dubourdieu's Statistical Survey of Antrim 1812, and described as dismantled by a Dr Reeves. Dun Deseart means 'fort hermitage'. This would suggest active visitation and sharing by the Coptic and Celtic monks on a wider scale than previously thought.

Frank Lyons said...

There is a tradition of Egyptian monks in Ireland. A source used by Maurice Sinclair at Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt, cites James O'Laverty, An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol. II, Dublin, 1880, pp. 312-314,460: "The litany of Aengus, written AD 799, 'supplicates the seven holy Egyptian monks who lie in desert Ulidh'. It seems this church was called Desert Ulidh-- the desert of Ulster-- either because of its proximity to Kilultagh, or perhaps that territorial designation extended further. It is believed that there was a monastery in the district of Dundesert having origins between the fifth and seventh centuries. Dundesert is a small district less than two miles from Crumlin village. It is listed in Dubourdieu's Statistical Survey of Antrim 1812, and described as dismantled by a Dr Reeves. Dun Deseart means 'fort hermitage'. This would suggest active visitation and sharing by the Coptic and Celtic monks on a wide scale, and is an unknown part of history. However, this would clearly provide the background necessary to understand the Celtic traditions of monasticism.