Sandstone frieze

From Faras, Sudan
Early 7th century AD

From the first cathedral at Faras

Little is known of the period after the Meroitic state collapsed in about the fourth century AD. In the sixth century the three Nubian kingdoms, known as the kingdoms of Nobatia, were converted to Christianity. They were ruled from Faras, just inside the modern northern border of the Sudan. The Christian churches in Nubia and Egypt were affiliated. The most important bishops were based at Old Dongola, capital of the Nubian kingdom of Makuria, and at Faras.

Before being flooded by the new Lake Nasser in 1964, the site of Faras was excavated by a Polish expedition; the remains of spectacular buildings were discovered, including cathedrals. This sandstone block comes from the first cathedral, forming part of a decorative frieze in the apse of the sanctuary chamber. Between the pillars stands a dove or eagle, wings outstretched, beneath a Coptic-type cross. Both birds were important symbols in Egyptian and Nubian Christianity - representing paradise.

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More information


J.H. Taylor, Egypt and Nubia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

K. Michalowski, Faras. Die Kathedrale aus dem (Zurich, Benziger, 1967)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Length: 43.000 cm
Height: 25.400 cm

Museum number

EA 606



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