The Spell of Egypt by Robert Hichens

 -  And
now and then one happens upon a building that creates the same
impression. Such a building is this church - Page 130
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And Now And Then One Happens Upon A Building That Creates The Same Impression.

Such a building is this church.

It is known and recorded that more than a thousand years ago it had a patriarch whose name was Shenuti; but it is supposed to have been built long before that time, and parts of it look as if they had been set up at the very beginning of things. The walls are dingy and whitewashed. The wooden roof is peaked, with many cross-beams. High up on the walls are several small square lattices of wood. The floor is of discolored stone. Everywhere one sees wood wrought into lattices, crumbling carpets that look almost as frail and brittle and fatigued as wrappings of mummies, and worn-out matting that would surely become as the dust if one set his feet hard upon it. The structure of the building is basilican, and it contains some strange carvings of the Last Supper, the Nativity, and St. Demetrius. Around the nave there are monolithic columns of white marble, and one column of the red and shining granite that is found in such quantities at Assuan. There are three altars in three chapels facing toward the East. Coptic monks and nuns are renowned for their austerity of life, and their almost fierce zeal in fasting and in prayer, and in Coptic churches the services are sometimes so long that the worshippers, who are almost perpetually standing, use crutches for their support. In their churches there always seems to me to be a cold and austere atmosphere, far different from the atmosphere of the mosques or of any Roman Catholic church.

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