Fragment from a Lintel or Frieze with a Cross and Rosette Medallions

Object Name: Fragment

Date: 6th century

Geography: Egypt, Saqqara; Egypt, Mitrahina

Culture: Coptic

Medium: Limestone

Dimensions: H. 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm)
W. 38 3/16 in. (97 cm)
D. 3 15/16 in. (10 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1910

Accession Number: 10.176.37


In the 500s, Apa (Father) Jeremias founded a Coptic monastery at Saqqara, the ancient Egyptian necropolis (cemetery) for the city of Memphis, near the oldest pyramids. He and the earliest monks lived in ancient tombs at the site. As the monastery grew, several grand churches with lavish decoration were built as well as many chapels, public buildings, and multi-unit complexes of cells (rooms) for individual monks. The monastery continued to grow after the Arab conquest, with materials from Early Byzantine tomb structures being reused for additional monastic structures. Inscriptions record prayers to numerous holy figures. Sculptural elements from Saqqara often are carved with deeply cut, stylized patterns to intensify the play of light and shadow and mask the solidity of the architecture, a style popular throughout the Byzantine world in the 500s.