Title page of Lingua Ægyptiaca restituta... Rome: Apud Ludovicum Grignanum, 1643, by Athanasius Kircher. Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room, Library of Congress.
Translated from the Latin by David Shive
Edited by Carolyn M. Ramzy
In the sacrifice of the Mass, mostly they use the liturgies of St. Peter, St. Mark, St. Basil, St. Gregory and St. Cyril. These liturgies are translated in the Coptic language, which perhaps in their own time, if I understand correctly, we will present in Coptic, Arabic, Greek, and Latin with the intention to demonstrate, by irrefutable argument against the unbelieving heretics, the antiquity and uniformity honored in the Roman Church. In the sacrifice of the Mass, all of them are leaning on the staff, by this very thing, showing themselves to be travelers, awaiting the blessed hope and the coming advent of God's great glory. Therefore, they are always ready for the spiritual journey [from this world to the next].
By singing the liturgies and other prayers, they honor God, which their voices do through definite steps and leaps, or they so inflect the tones (which they call in Coptic and in Arabic said Hink[?]) sometimes by stretching them, sometimes by relaxing them, so that as a result they exhibit a quite pleasant sound to the listeners. Indeed, in order that we may offer some specimen of this thing to the curious reader, I will write out here a solemn intonation of the Mass with musical notes just as I was able to extract it from the mouth of my Coptic scribe. I thought it should be set down.
Repeating this tone again and again they chant with such great intensity of mind and body [that] they seem to want to care for and value none other than this sonority. It differs not much from our Gregorian chant, and it has the flavor somewhat of Greek psalmody and, in fact, it is not so discordant as the chant of the Hebrews and other Orientals [which] is performed without any artistry or sonority.
From Kircher, Athanasius. "De Ecclesiae Coptae..." in Lingua Ægyptiaca restituta... Rome: Apud Ludovicum Grignanum, 1643, pages 515-516. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Library of Congress. Call number: PJ2033.K5.
- Historically, as Coptic churches did not have church pews, congregation members could only stand, kneel, or lean against the wall during the long services. Both Kircher and later Villoteau made note of a crutch that congregation members used for support. In his 1809 transcription, Villoteau devotes some time to the 'ekāz, Arabic for staff, in one of his footnotes. [back to article]