Fragment from a Funerary Stele with a Medallion of a Cross and Leaves
In the 500s Apa (Father) Jeremias founded a Coptic monastery at Saqqara, the ancient Egyptian necropolis (cemetery) of the city of Memphis, near the oldest pyramids. He and the earliest monks lived in tombs at the site. As the monastery grew, several grand churches with lavish decoration were built, as well as many chapels, public buildings, and complexes of cells (rooms) for each monk. 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 are often carved with deeply undercut patterns to intensify the play of light and shadow and to mask the solidity of the architecture. This sculptural style was popular throughout the Byzantine world in the 500s.
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