The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > November 2009 > Chant Like an Egyptian
Chant Like an Egyptian

The music of Egypt has been an integral part of its culture since ancient times. Thoth was the god credited with inventing music, which Osiris used as part of his effort to civilize the world. The music of the Coptic Orthodox Christian community is said to have preserved many features of ancient Egyptian music: traditional rites and services accompanying major life transitions are sung, and the afterlife is believed to be an eternal musical celebration. Musically, Copts believe that their liturgical hymnody, as it is sung during worship services, helps to create momentarily a sense of heaven on earth, as music is the medium that bridges the everyday mundane life with a higher, spiritual realm.

Interior of St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, Abbassiyya, Cairo. 2009. Music Division. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.Biblia latina (Bible in Latin), probably Mainz, 1452–1453. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.

Egyptian scholar Ragheb Moftah dedicated his 75-year career to the collection, notation and preservation of Coptic liturgical chant. The Library is the repository for his collection.

A special presentation on the Library’s Performing Arts Encyclopedia draws upon this collection and features recordings, photographs, videos, transcriptions, books, article and more.

A timeline from Egypt’s early beginnings in 3500 B.C. traces the Coptic Orthodox religion from its start when Saint Mark the Apostle brought Christianity to Egypt in the years 45-60 all the way to the 21st century, when His Holiness Pope Shenouda III conducted Moftah’s funeral in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

The Library’s Portals to the World features selected internet resources on Egypt. Included under the religion resources is a link to the Encyclopedia Coptica, which provides information about Coptic church history and Coptic studies.

Religion and Christianity is represented in a variety of resources at the Library—from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Bibles to American Jewish history.