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Work Funerary stele with two orant figures

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)

Funerary stele

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)

Lyon-Caen Christiane

"Lord, grant repose to the souls of your servants Anba Kyr and Ioanna his sister; they rested in peace on the eleventh of Pharmuthi, 15th indiction." The two protagonists of this epitaph are represented beneath a double arch, in an attitude of prayer for all eternity. The priest and his sister, who died in April, hold up their unusually large hands to God - signs of their fervor, or of the sculptor's incompetence?

The orant (praying) figures

This brother and sister died on the same day. They wear traditional Roman-style tunics, with sleeves. The woman also has a veil covering her hair. With their hips jutting slightly, in Greco-Roman style, Father Kyr and Ioanna pray beneath twin arches resting on small columns with capitals.

The inscription

The epitaph, which fills the upper half of the stele, is engraved rather carelessly in Greek letters. The wording is not original, but is of interest because the names seem Greek, rather than Egyptian. Unlike professions, ecclesiastical titles were always mentioned (in this case, Kyr was a priest). Although the day and month were often specified, the year was rarely given - and the indiction could not be used in its stead since it referred to a fifteen-year period between two cadastral revisions. These praying figures therefore died in the last year of an indiction period. The formula "they rested in peace" evokes the Christian hope of resurrection.


The Christian promise of bodily resurrection and eternal life dealt a fatal blow to the practice of mummification. The body's integrity no longer needed preserving: God would provide. The deceased was clothed rather than naked, and wrapped in a shroud rather than bandages. A stone stele in his memory was placed on his tomb. The funerary rites that had served to maintain artificial life around the dead body became obsolete, replaced by prayers and masses for the repose of the soul.


- BERNARD E., Inscriptions grecques d’Egypte et de Nubie au musée du Louvre, Paris, 1992, n°107, p.159-160, pl. 63.

-  Au fil du Nil, couleurs de l’Egypte chrétienne, catalogue de l’exposition, musée Dobrée de Nantes, Paris, 2001, n°52, p.81.

Technical description

  • Funerary stele

    Byzantine Period

    Medinet el-Fayum

  • Limestone

    H. 45 cm; W. 36 cm; D. 7.50 cm

  • Loaned by the Musée Guimet, 1954

    E 21147

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Bawit room
    Display case 5

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