As Pope Tawadros II celebrated Midnight Mass for Coptic Christmas on the eve of 7 January at St Mark’s cathedral in Abbassiya, Cairo, the Coptic congregation was treated to a glimpse of the first phase of the renovation executed in the cathedral. This included new icons painted in the Interior dome and the main sanctuary which houses the main altar and the niche facing it; that niche in the Coptic Church is known as the ‘Bosom of the Father’.
St Mark’s Cathedral in Abassiya is the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. It has been closed to the public for some 18 months now, since it is being refurbished for its golden jubilee in June 2018. The refurbishment includes new icons to cover the walls of the church. The cathedral already held icons on its iconostasis, but now the entire church is getting new icons that should have a unified appearance and harmonious palette. The old icons still stand, but will be taken away and used for other purposes to be decided by Pope Tawadros II. These old icons are in themselves gems of Coptic art, having been jointly written by the prominent iconographers Youssef Latif (1921 – 2013) and his wife Bodour Nassif (1921 – 2012)
The cathedral’s interior dome has been drawn by artist Ayman William; its theme runs along the heavenly host. William was one of the artists who worked on the Cathedral of the Heavenly Host in Sharm al-Sheikh, and has also painted icons in cathedrals in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and San Francisco.
The group that wrote the icon in the Bosom of the Father was headed by iconographer Ermiya al-Qattsha. The group comprises five members who act as leaders to some 13 artists.
8 January 2017