Was Shenoute of Atripe a Creator of Coptic Nationalism?


Shenoute of Atripe represents one of the most important persons of Coptic Church history. His character remained shrouded in secrecy until the beginning of 20th century when the ground-breaking book about his life and legacy by Johannes Leipoldt was published. The recent archaeological excavation surrounding his former monasteries also can help to give other information about the period when he lived. Shenoute is by some scholars considered a creator of Coptic nationalism because he was the most productive Coptic writer using comprehensive language in his writings. He also wanted to eliminate all Greek elements from Coptic literature. Shenoute tried to suppress pagan cults in Upper Egypt. In fact, Panapolis was the centre of later paganism and the archimandrite of White Monastery tried to overthrow the cult of pagan gods and its worshippers by force and replaced it by Christianity. Was Shenoute really a creator of Coptic nationalism or just a zealous opponent of paganism? Shenoute apparently perceived Hellenistic culture as one of main attributes of pagan polytheism and maybe as a means for its spreading. Because of this persuasion he wished to establish a new purely Coptic spirituality which would not be reliant on Hellenistic culture. Understanding Shenoute and his time is aiding the mapping the formation of Coptic identity and its relation to Hellenistic heritage itself but also contemporary Coptic Christianity.


Miloš David
Student, PhD, Institute of Eastern Christianity, Hussite Theological Faculty, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Religious Foundations


Nationalism, Identity, Spirituality, Copts, Monasticism

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