Copts, the principal sect of Christians in the valley of the Nlle. Ethnologically, the Copts are the representatives of the native race which inhabited Egypt in the time, of the Ptolemies. The race, however, has been mingled somewhat with the blacker tribes of the upper Nile, and with its Greek and Arab conquerors. In physical characteristics the Copts resemble much the Moslems in Egypt, but they are smaller in stature and have a less independent bearing and manner. As a general rule their complexion is dark brown, almost approaching to black. The nose is straight, widened at the end; the eyes, which incline upward, are black, the forehead is narrow, and the hair curly. Their dress is of dark colors, both in the turban and flowing robe, either of brown, dark blue, or black. In the towns and cities this is an invariable distinctive mark, but in the villages of Upper Egypt the attention to costume is less scrupulous, and the Copt women cannot by dress be distinguished from the Moslem. The cross, tattooed upon the hand of the Copt woman, is a more decisive badge; and for the man an inkhorn at the girdle is another badge, since the work of scribes and clerks in Egypt is almost wholly in the hands of Copts. Their education is usually much superior to that of the Moslems, and they are more apt in those pursuits which require quickness of sight and readiness of invention.

Unlike the Moslems, also, they drink freely of spirituous liquors. In the matter of food their customs are in many respects identical with those of the Jews. They will not eat things strangled, nor blood, nor the flesh of swine; and above all things, they shun camel's flesh as unclean. With the other races of Egypt they now seldom intermarry, such connection being prohibited by the ecclesiastical law. - They are devotedly attached to their ecclesiastical system, and hold that their ritual is the most ancient Christian ritual in existence. They reckon in their list of saints an evangelist, with many of the most celebrated fathers and doctors of the church. They stigmatize as heretical the communions of Greece and Rome; and they regard with intense hatred those of their own countrymen who recognize the authority of the pope or the Byzantine patriarch. The church has so diminished in numbers that it is computed to have in all Egypt not more than 150,000 members. It has five orders of active and secular clergy, besides the order of monks, which holds a very important relation to the rest of the church. Historically the church of Egypt is a monastic church.

The beginnings of the monastic life were in its deserts; and the hermits and cenobites of the Thebaid and the Red sea coast gave the example and the impulse to all subsequent development of Christian asceticism. The head of the Coptic church is the patriarch of Alexandria, who originally resided in that city; but the patriarch Christodulos (1045-76) transferred his seat to Cairo, where his successors have a palace, and derive a large revenue from their possessions. The patriarch holds office for life, and his authority in the church is almost absolute. Formerly he was elected by a synod of 12 bishops convened at Cairo; but at present he is selected from among the monks of the convent of St. Anthony, near the gulf of Suez. The mode of election is as follows: A list is made out of 100 monks who are believed to be fit for the office of patriarch. Out of this number 50 are elected by a majority of votes; this number is then by vote reduced to 25, subsequently to 10, and at last to 3, one of whom is chosen by lot. He must continue unmarried and conform to his monastic customs of dress and diet and sleep. He appoints the dbuna or head of the Abyssinian church as his suffragan. The bishops are 13 in number, and like the patriarch wear the broad round turban and are celibates.

It is customary to choose them from the convents, though the canons of the church do not always require this. The youngest among the dioceses are that of Esne, an important place for the Abyssinian trade, established in the 18th century, and that of Khar-toom, which embraces all Nubia, and was established in 1835. Below the bishops are the archpriests, who are sometimes at the head of the convents, and sometimes are chosen directly from the order of the priesthood. Their functions correspond to those of archdeacons in the English church. Next to these are the priests, who may be married, provided the marriage has taken place before their ordination. After that they are not allowed to marry; nor can any one be ordained a priest who has had more than one wife, or has married a widow. The priest wears a turban of peculiar shape, narrow in the rim and flattened at the top. He is not compelled to abstain from secular labors, but may earn money by a trade or a profession. The same rules apply to the shemma, or deacon, who is only an incipient priest. Both priest and deacon receive ordination from the hands of the bishop, or, if they live in Cairo, from the patriarch.

In reality most of them, especially in Lower Egypt, are unmarried, their ranks being chiefly recruited from the convents. - The Coptic convents were once very numerous, 336, according to the legend. They were distributed through the' desert of Nitria, the Thebaid, the shores of the Red sea, Nubia, and along the Nile. The sexes were separate, and nunneries were as common in Egypt as in Italy or Spain. At present their number is greatly reduced. Of monasteries proper, in which only men are admitted, there are but seven, those of St. Anthony and St. Paul in the eastern desert, four in the desert of Nitria, and one at Mount Kos-kam in Upper Egypt. In these the monastic rule is rigidly observed, and the old customs are kept in their integrity. In Cairo there are three convents; in Fostat or Old Cairo, and in Alexandria, two each; two in the Fayoom, where once there were 30 or more; and one in Abu Honnes, Mellawi, Ekhmin, Girgeh, Negaddeh, and other towns along the river. The best known to travellers is the Deyr el-Adra, or convent of the Virgin, which crowns the summit of a precipitous rock, the Jebel et-Tari, on the E. bank of the Nile. The white and red monasteries near Soohag are also frequently visited on account of the remarkable architecture of their churches.

In the neighborhood of Abydos there is also an important convent. But in all these establishments the monks have lapsed into secular habits, the fasts are much neglected, women live with the men, and the convent is only a Christian village of greater or less extent. In the regular monasteries, such as those of Nitria and of St. Anthony and St. Paul, hard and long probation is required before initiation, and the discipline is severe. The dress is a simple shirt of coarse' woollen fabric. The badge of the class is a dark blue strip of cloth, which is suspended from the turban below the back of the neck. Only on feast days is animal food allowed, and then in small quantities; the ordinary food of the brethren is black bread and lentils, and on fast days they are deprived even of this meagre fare. The convents, when not situated on some inaccessible rock, are surrounded by a high and strong wall, which has only a single iron door, and in some cases is wholly without opening, the means of entrance being a pulley from the top. In the neighborhood of these convents are the ruins of many others. - Baptism, a rite to which the Copts attach great importance, is performed by dipping the child three times into water which has received a few drops of consecrated oil.

An unbaptized child will be blind in the next world. The rite ought to be administered to a male infant 40, and to a female 80 days after birth. It secures regeneration. Next to baptism is circumcision, which is performed upon boys at the age of seven years, though without any special religious ceremonies. It is more scrupulously attended to at Negaddeh than at Cairo. The Copts are as careful to observe their seasons of daily prayer as the better class of Moslems. Seven times a day they perform their lustrations, turn to the east, recite their Pater noster, and beg in 41 repetitions for the Lord's mercy. Their rosary contains 41 beads. Many of them go over in these seven daily exercises the whole of the Psalms. The public religious service is excessively long, lasting at least three hours before the consecrated cakes, stamped with the sign of the cross and the pious inscription, can be distributed to the people. It is accompanied by monotonous chantings, abundant burning of incense, processions of the host around the church, and the noisy beating of cymbals at intervals. - Like all orientals, the Copts decorate their houses of prayer with ornaments of ostrich eggs, rude inscriptions, and pictures of their favorite saints.

Chief among these are the fighting St. George, and the hermits Anthony and Paul and Macarius, the last of whom is the especial protector of the Nitrian convents. The form of the churches and the general style of Coptic architecture is that of the Greek basilica; none of their churches are cruciform. In many instances ancient heathen temples were converted into Christian churches. Some of the churches are still subterranean; and at Thebes a church of the catacombs has been discovered hardly less interesting than the churches beneath St. Agnese and St. Sebastian at Kome. In the ordinary construction of Coptic churches there are four compartments. At the furthest end from the doorway is the chancel, the heykel, which is completely hidden behind a high screen, with the doorway in the centre closed by a curtain, on which a cross is embroidered. Next to this is the part appropriated to the priests who interpret in Arabic the Coptic service to the singers, to the leading men of the congregation, and to strangers who may be present. This is separated from the next compartment by a high lattice, in which there are three doors. In this third compartment, which communicates directly with the street, are stationed the mass of the congregation.

A fourth compartment in the extreme rear, or on one side, is reserved for the women. This is dimly lighted, and separated from the main room by a latticework partition. The women wear their veils during worship. The poor of the congregation wait during the service around the outer doorway, and receive alms as the congregation passes out. As in the mosques, every worshipper must take off his shoes before his feet touch the mats of the holy house, and must go at once to kneel before the cross on the curtain. The more devout then go round and pray in turn before the pictures of the saints, which are hung around the second apartment, giving a kiss to those within reach of their lips. During most of the service the congregation remain standing, or rather leaning upon long crutches, with which most of them are provided. The service within the heykel or sanctuary is entirely from the Coptic liturgies. No other tongue is allowed before the altar. The priests who officiate here wear ornamented vestments specially appropriated to the various religious seasons and festivals. The ordinary celebration of the eucharist requires two or three priests within the heykel, while as many more explain the lessons to the people in the next apartment.

The communion is given to the clergy in both kinds, but the laity are privileged only to have cakes on which the wine has been sprinkled. The more devout confess their sins to the priests at least once in every week; and none have a right to ask for the sacred bread until they have eased their minds by such acknowledgment. The penances imposed are similar to those in the Roman church. - The regular seasons of fasting in the Coptic church include more than half the year. With the exception of the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year are "meagre days," in which meat is prohibited. Besides these, there are the fast of the Nativity, 28 days long; the fast of the Apostles, which follows the Ascension festival; the fast of the Virgin, 15 days in length, to prepare for the feast of the Assumption; and the great fast of Lent, which, with the additions that various patriarchs have made, and the preliminary fast of the prophet Jonah, extends to 58 days. In these fast seasons there is a daily service in the church, and the houses of worship are kept constantly open.

There are seven principal festivals: those which commemorate the nativity, the baptism, the triumphal entry, the resurrection, and the ascension of Christ, the Pentecost miracle, and the annunciation to the Virgin. All of these festivals occur within the first half of the year, two of them in January, and the remaining five usually in April, May, and June. At the feasts el-Milad, Christmas, el-Ghitas, the baptism, and el-Kabir, Easter, there is a midnight service in the churches. The feast of baptism is still further honored by the custom of plunging into the river, or into a tank in the church, after prayers have been said and the water duly blessed. The men and boys together go through this ceremony, which is accompanied by a washing of the feet, performed by the priest. Besides these principal festivals, there are the feast of the Apostles, the holy Thursday and Saturday of Passion week, and the Salih feast in September, which commemorates the finding of the true cross. These feasts are marked by unusual show in dress, by largesses to the poor, and by indulging in ardent spirits to the degree often of intoxication. - The Copts have a convent in Jerusalem and a chapel in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and there are perhaps 100 of their communion who reside in the holy city and welcome the pilgrims in their annual visit.

The duty of pilgrimage is as binding upon Copts as upon Moslems; but the number of those who fulfil it is comparatively small. - The creed of the Coptic church is that of the Monophysites, who were condemned as heretics at the council of Chalcedon in 451. They deny the doctrine of two natures in Christ, and insist that after the incarnation there was but a single nature and a single will. In common with the Greeks, they hold that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. It is affirmed by some writers that they believe the doctrine of transubstantia-tion; but this is denied by the Coptic priests, who hold to a theory more like the Lutheran than the Catholic. The number of sacraments is seven, but these differ in several particulars from the Roman sacraments, faith and prayer being substituted for matrimony and extreme unction. They acknowledge as authoritative only the three councils of the church which preceded the council at Chalcedon, viz.: of Nice, of Constantinople, and of Ephesus. The general name by which the Egyptian church is known in controversy is that of Jacobite, which name was applied to them as the followers of the Eutychian Jacobus Baradseus, one of the chief apostles of the heresy.

This heresy they share with the Abyssinians, with whom indeed in most particulars of doctrine and practice they sympathize. There is a convent of Abyssinian monks in the Nitrian desert; they share the same chapel at Jerusalem; and the abuna of the church of the mountains is dependent on the head of the church of Egypt. - Portions of three separate versions of the Scriptures into the Coptic tongue have been found among the MSS. brought from the Egyptian monasteries, which were probably made in the beginning of the 4th century. Of these, that used in Lower Egypt and the Nitrian desert is called the Memphitic; that used in Upper Egypt, the Thebaic; and the third, which it is conjectured may have been used in the eastern part of the Nile delta, the Bash-muric. The Thebaic version, which is often called the Sahidic, is the most important in the textual criticism of the New Testament; while the Memphitic, which is usually styled the Coptic, has the most authority in the existing Egyptian church. The first printed edition of the Memphitic New Testament was issued by David Wilkins (4to, Oxford, 1716), with a Latin translation. A later and more accurate edition was begun by the Prussian Schwartze in 1846, but only the four Gospels were published before his death.

Since 1852 Dr. Paul Botticher of Halle has published the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. Another edition, under the superintendence of Dr. R. T. Lieder of Cairo, has been published by the London society for promoting Christian knowledge. The Thebaic version has been collated and fragments of it published since 1779 by Woide, Mingarelli, Giorgi, Munter, and Ford. Fragments of the Bashmuric version have been published by Zoega and Engelbrecht. - The Copts have three liturgies. The principal is a translation from the Greek liturgy of St. Basil, in which, however, several alterations are made to adapt it to the variations in doctrine and discipline. Another, which bears the name of St. Gregory, was probably borrowed from the Armenian church (of which Gregory was the apostle and founder), after that church lapsed into the Eutychian heresy. A third is doubtfully attributed to the Alexandrian Cyril, who in all the churches of Egypt has great authority, and is honored by the pompous title of "doctor of the world." Of these liturgies there are Arabic translations in use in all the churches.

Most of the priests are unable to understand their sacred dialect except in a translation. (See Coptic Language.) - In 1442 the Copts were prevailed upon to enter into communion with Rome; but the union was soon dissolved. In 1713 the Coptic patriarch again recognized the supreme authority of the pope, but this act appears not to have had any lasting results. The missionaries of the Roman Catholic church, in particular the Franciscans and reformed Minorites, succeeded in gaining over a number of Copts for a reunion with Rome, and thus established a united Coptic church, for which the pope in 1781 instituted a vicariate apostolic, which still exists. The vicar apostolic, who is a bishop in partibus, resides at Cairo, and in his house young men who wish to devote themselves to the ministry receive free board and instruction. Since 1840 the vicar apostolic has also had under his jurisdiction as delegate of the apostolic see the church of Abyssinia, to which country the Propaganda at that time intended to send a bishop of the Coptic rite. The number of united Copts is estimated at about 3,500, who have 9 churches, 7 chapels, and 25 priests. - The average morality of the Copts in Egypt is about the same as that of the other races, with the single exception of the vice of drunkenness.

The Copts whom travellers usually meet are of the more respectable class, and hide their avarice under the mask of courtesy. They are more familiar and fluent than the Turkish effendis, and show in their intercourse none of that contempt for the infidel which the most polite Moslem can hardly refrain from manifesting. The domestic customs of the Coptic people differ but slightly from those of the Arabs of the Nile valley. There are some peculiarities, however, in their marriage ceremonies. The Copt bride, unlike the Moslem, has no canopy to cover her in the procession to the bridegroom's house; at the preliminary feast pigeons are released from pies and fly around the room shaking bells attached to their feet; in the church, besides the sacrament of communion, there is a ceremony of coronation, and the priest sets on the foreheads of the new couple a thin gilt diadem; the bride, in entering her husband's house, must step over the blood of a newly-killed lamb; and the whole pageant, after lasting eight days, ends with a grand feast at the bridegroom's house. This is the custom with the wealthy and on the occasion of a young girl's marriage. The poor are wedded more simply, and no parade is made when a widow goes to the house of her second husband.

All marriages, to be religiously lawful, must be licensed by the patriarch or bishop; but as civil contracts marriages licensed by the cadi are valid, and many of the poorer Copts prefer the disgrace of that resort to the extortion of their own spiritual rulers. Such marriages, moreover, are more easily dissolved than those which the priest solemnizes. The respectable Copt women live in the harem in seclusion. The wife's adultery is the only ground for divorce, notwithstanding that the incontinence of the husband is regarded as a sin. In most of the cities and large towns the Copts form but a fraction of the population. In the city of Cairo they have been estimated as high as 60,000; other writers put their number at 30,000, 20,000, or even 10,000. At Negaddeh, in Upper Egypt, there are 2,500; and Minieh, Osioot, Ekhmin, and Girgeh have each a considerable Coptic population. The whole race, from the sea to the Nubian frontier, number somewhat more than a 15th of the entire population of Egypt. In Nubia they are not found. - The history of the Copts in Egypt, from the time of St. Mark to the Arabic conquest, is the history of the land itself.

The names of their patriarchs, scholars, and anchorites, Clement, Origen, Athana-sius, Cyril, Dionysius, Anthony, Macarius, and many more, belong to the annals of the Christian church, and are commemorated both in the Roman and Greek calendars. From the 3d to the 6th century Egypt had great influence in settling the doctrines of faith; its patriarch was the rival of the Roman bishop; its hermitages were the most attractive shrines of pilgrimage, and in its solitudes the persecuted believers found safety. From the latter half of the 5th century the controversy between the Melchite or royalist party, who adhered to the creed of the Greeks, and the Jacobite party, who were Eutychians, was vehemently maintained for more than a century, the victory inclining more and more to the Jacobite party. The pacific policy of Zeno for a time restrained open warfare; but in the succeeding reigns of Justin, Justinian, Phocas, and Heraclius the strife of arms was added to the strife of words, and bloody persecutions were carried on.

In vain Apollinarius, at once prefect and patriarch, attempted by threatening and massacre to convert the Jacobite masses; roused by their zealous bishops, they returned defiance, and early in the 7th century all Christian faith not Monophysite was heresy from Alexandria to Syene. To quarrels with the Greeks succeeded quarrels with each other about minor points. Theodore and Themis-•tius discussed the question concerning the wisdom of Jesus, the latter expressing the belief that Jesus was not omniscient. John the Grammarian affirmed that there were three Gods, and rejected the word unity from the doctrine of the being of God. In the five years of his administration as patriarch, from A. D. 611, John the Almsgiver made more converts by his zeal in good works than by his zeal against the Greek heresy; yet he was not acknowledged as a genuine patriarch, since he was appointed to office by the emperor, and followed the imperial party when it was driven from Alexandria by the invading Persians. In the ten years of Persian rule the patriarch was a true Copt. When the Romans regained power, the Jacobite Benjamin was displaced, and for a short time the church of Egypt had a ruler whose opinion was a compromise between the Greek and Jacobite views, maintaining two natures in Christ, but only a single will.

In the great strife between the Greeks and the Arabs, which occupied the succeeding years, the Coptic church secretly inclined to the Moslem party, and it has been charged against them that their connivance with Amru and his army decided the contest in favor of the religion of the prophet. But if they were promised amnesty and protection, the promise was not long kept. Within a century from the fall of Alexandria the hands of monks were branded, and heavy annual imposts exacted of them, and such as refused to pay were scourged, outraged, and even beheaded; many of the churches, too, were destroyed and plundered. In the reign of the caliph Hashem (724-743), the Melchite dispute was revived by the restoration of some of the Greek bishops to their ancient sees in Nubia, and bribes by one and the other party swayed the authorities in either direction. In 755 it was forbidden to any Copt to hold any public office, even if he should embrace Islamism. In the time of the Abbasside dynasty the humiliations of the Copts were multiplied; the caliph Mutawackel compelled them to wear disgraceful articles of dress, and to fasten on their doors pictures of devils; and a century and a half later the mad Fatimite caliph Hakem prescribed for them the black robe and turban, ordered them to wear suspended from their necks a heavy wooden cross, confiscated their churches, and finally decreed their banishment.

To save themselves from these heavy penalties great numbers apostatized, and in the following centuries the number of Christians steadily decreased. In 1301 an edict was issued requiring all Christians to wear blue turbans, and forbidding them to ride on horses or mules. Fresh conversions to Islam were the result of this edict. In 1321, by a bold conspiracy, the Moslem zealots destroyed simultaneously all the Egyptian churches, many of which were overturned from the foundations. The Christians retaliated by burning in Fostat and Cairo a large number of houses, palaces, and mosques. The punishment for these outrages, though it fell upon some of the Arabs, bore more severely upon the Christians. Some were hanged, some were burned alive, and leave was given to all Moslem subjects to rob and murder any Christian who might be seen wearing the white turban. No government official was permitted to employ a Copt. At the baths they were distinguished by a bell hung from the neck. Very numerous changes of faith resulted from this persecution, and at the end of the 14th century the condition of the Copts in numbers and influence had reached its lowest point, at which it continued with but little variation until the present century.

Under Mehemet Ali and his successors, the Copts have had no occasion to complain of unreasonable taxation or of violated rights. Their exemption from military service, which seems to be a disgrace, is in reality a privilege, and is so regarded by most of their body. - A full statement of Coptic history may be found in vol. ii. of Quatremere's Memoires geographiques et historiques. The most condensed account of their manners and customs is given in Lane's "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians." Sir Gardner Wilkinson has given some valuable notices of the Copts in his work on Egypt, and Mr. Curzon has described the appearance and condition of their convents and MSS. A good account of the Coptic versions may be found in the "Introductions to the New Testament" by Hug and Tregelles. Burckhardt, Bunsen, and Lepsius have furnished many important incidental notices, and the Arabic historian Makrizi has treated of the fortunes of the subject people in his elaborate account of their conquerors, and of Moslem rule in Egypt.

A Copt.

A Copt.