The Coptic Church owes its existence to the evangelization of Egypt by St. Mark and thus claims to be one of the churches most faithful to the biblical message of the beginnings. The Copts regard themselves as true descendants of the ancient people of pharaonic Egypt. The history of their name is a reminder that this part of the world was at the center of an unusually extensive intermixing of populations and religions. The term 'Copt' is an alteration of the Greek Aigyptios (Egyptian) which became 'qibt' in Arabic, and gradually came to designate exclusively the community that remained faithful to Christianity in spite of the expansion of Islam.
From the early centuries of our era, monks and anchorites established monastreries and hermitages in regions that were often arid and difficult to reach, well suited to their ascetical ideal. At times they reused monuments going back to the time of the pharaohs, turning them into churches and anchorites' cells, and built true fortress-monastreries in the desert. They decorated these building with wall paintings, many of which have been recently rediscovered. Their libraries contained literary and artistic treasures still in existence. Their fabrics, which are of an admirable beauty, are the rpide of great museums and collections. Coptic Egypt has existed for over one millennium in an Islamic land, an experience which has had a profound influence not only on the forms of religious life but also on icnonography and artistic sensibility. Being the heir of ancient Egypt and having assimilated Roman and Byzantine influences, Coptic art has also been enriched by contact with Islamic art. As a consequence, its artisans and architects succeeded ind eveloping an original art and architecture.