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Despite the fact that cosmopolitanism has begun & flourished in Egypt generally

& in Alexandria particularly early in the 19th century due to the vision & the e
fforts of Mohamed Ali (1805-1848) as well as his successors1, & despite that the
very rich cosmopolitan architecture of Alexandria has always been like an opene
d book to our daily sight, many of us didn't notice that inside of this opened b
ook there is also an opened gallery.. which is full of different kinds of arts:
(Painting, sculpture, mosaics, stained glass, reliefâ ¦ etc).
Many of these arts are really precious & going back to quite known European Arti
sts & workshops of their time, from different countries like France, Italy, Gree
ce, England, Germany, Switzerland & others; also some of these arts were nothing
but good amateurs works, but in the end they are all representing an important
heritage that is telling stories about its time. .
After the revolution of 1952, gradually & with the European families' continuous
exodus, all the cosmopolitan traces including architecture have become national
Thus, most of palaces, houses & villas have been transferred to national banks,
museums, civilian service buildings & of course residences for the revolution's
leaders. It is not questionable to notice how bad this heritage that is going ba
ck to about one century and a half was treated.
In fact, hard stones of architecture can probably resist time & lack of maintena
nce, but what about arts that were inside of these buildings; did they have a ch
ance to survive ? The answer is (sometimes); but, did they have a chance to be p
reserved or well restored or at least to be seen? The answer is most of the time
These arts are very delicate, they were & still not documented, in fact they wer
e always been hiding & hidden in the same time, thus I was not welcomed in most
of places to document, shoot or watch & that is because of many reasons, mostly
due to the very bad & tragic condition that most of works has become to.

Worth mentioning that most of the artists or workshops names in my researches we

re not documented in any of known references, but were all observed directly fro
m each art work or rarely from some neglected dusty documents in a building's ba
sement or roof, just in case it was allowed to go here or there.

* Concerning the Italian architecture in Alexandria city at the cosmopolitan era

, especially at the end of the 19th century as well as the first half of the 20t
h century, it has often been a good example of being a mother of the arts.

So far, it is so common to hear in public & among street transients that differe
nt occidental edifices were built by an Italian architect, which is not of cours
e true all of the time, but this public impression was due to the active & impor
tant played role by the Italian architects generally in modern Egypt.

Count Patrice De Zogheb wrote in his memories2: "Building was Italian specialty.
Architects & contractors of that nationality were very much in demand â not only be
cause of the great Roman, Renaissance & Settecento traditions â but, also, because t
hey were assisted by both skilled and unskilled Italian workmen whose qualities
made them ideal builders. These Italians were sober & hardworking, honest and ea
sy to handle".
* Beginning with the private domestic architecture in Alexandria as in palaces o
r villas, we will find out that arts were very luxury, decorative & appropriate
to the high class clients or royal families at this time, elegant designs of sta
ined glass as in (fig1) by (F. Quentin), Firenze, 1923, were coming through a co
ntinuous story on the Princess (Fatma Alzahraa) Palace windows. The palace becam
e a jewelry museum, but it is so dramatic to know that such pieces of arts have
been badly restored, just because the poor expertise of the group who did the jo

Also in such private Elite's properties it is so common to find many scenes, rep
resenting ancient Greek myth as mural or ceiling paintings, which had to be exec
uted in the city itself, not imported from Europe like other kinds of arts; also
these mural paintings were not most of the time real fresco.
In fact, after several (X ray) diffraction analyses4, research results proved th
at most of these works were technically made by the methods called (fresco secco
) or (marouflage); but any way & unfortunately, once claimed to be restored we w
ill not be able to distinct the original artist's touches from the restoring one
s .

Some decorating works were also presenting light oriental scenes in Art-Deco sty
le especially when it was exposed to public as in the lobby of (Cinema Amir-1958
) (fig2) & where the signature (Brandanu) (at the left low corner of the image),
seems to belong to an Italian, maybe Sardinian artist.

Other works were very direct in its eastern ornamental patterns like the mosaics
of the Italian Architect Alexander Loria's 3 well seen buildings, in1928, on th
e sea & which were just appropriate for their decorative function; it is also ve
ry obvious in such public works here or there that the Italian designer in Alexa
ndria has very much respected the Eastern society's taste.

* This flexible vision one can point to it easily by looking at the religious ar
chitecture in the city, just like the magnificent & well done decorative & artis
tic works in the big mosques of Alexandria which (Aboul Abbas) Mosque (completel
y finished in1942), is the most famous one of them (fig 3), thus & although Mari
o Rossi was not an eastern ..he had to follow the Islamic rules in decorating, p
lanning & designing art works which made his mission harder, but it can be notic
ed in such brilliant Neo-Andalusian example that the Italian architect has spoke
n very eloquently about Islamic arts & crafts .
* As a tolerant cosmopolitan city with its cultural and ethnic diversity, differ
ent religious buildings were just standing beside each others, not to mention th
at Alexandria was the first city in the Islamic east to allow to those who don't
believe in a specific religion (Les Libres Penseurs) to have their own private
When wandering among the different Christian Churches, where, unlike the civilia
n architecture, art works were presenting a very successful dialogue between exp
ression & impression, due to the passion of the conviction, so it was not a matt
er of decorating.

Also, these religious arts were more respected & maintained as good as possible
by their European religious managers, who fortunately were able to stay in the c
ountry until the nineties of the 20th century when their own original monasterie
s in Europe began to have problems in funding their staying, so many of them wer
e gradually replaced by Egyptian monks.
With all the respect for those, they were & still more ascetic in their lives as
well as in their churches, which means that a lot of art works in the Latin or
Anglican churches would be removed or restored.

* Being the oldest & almost the largest, Sainte Catherine Cathedral in (Manchia)
was inaugurated in 1850, for the Franciscan monastery. It is considered the mot
her of Latin Catholic Churches in Alexandria, was designed by the Italian monk &
architect (Fra Serafino Da Baceno) (fig4), but the current frontal with its num
erous statues has been redesigned in 1927, where appears the big impact of Itali
an architecture on the Alexandria cosmopolitan buildings, especially when compar
ing between this frontal & the Sainte Susanna Cathedral's Baroque frontal in (Ro
me 1603) & others; it is also worth mentioning that the Italian King Vitorio Emm
anuelle III was buried in this monumental Sainte Catherine cathedral .

In fact the Latin Catholic Churches especially the Italian community churches, w
ere the richest of arts & magnificent pieces of works, it is so natural when not
icing that the Italians were among the richest communities in Egypt & also were
representing the second largest foreign one in Alexandria after the Greek, thus
different Italian foundations & Families did not hesitate to donate generously t
o built & decorate their own spiritual architecture, which was very much alike t
heir origin home.

It is so hard to believe what just happened to this marvelous cathedral when it

was decided in the middle of the nineties to restore the building, as in the rig
ht low corner thumbnail of (fig 4) where appears the original color of the inter
ior walls comparing to the new & bold white & turquoise paints, which led the ch
urch to loose its historical fragrance & spirit for ever.

In this big Cathedral, we can find different European works, they were gradually
added & dedicated by kings, princes & important persons around the Catholic wor
ld, but basically, Italian religious architecture was decorated by Italian artis
t works.

Mural painting is common in Latin churches of Alexandria, some of them were well
done & expressing spiritual senses but to be fair, the level of most of such wo
rks were not as fine as their European contemporary works at this time.
It worth also mentioning here that Alexandria Latin Churches has inherited a num
ber of very big & advanced orgues, but with no maintenance they all became enorm
ous antiques.

On the other hand we'll find that the imported pieces from Europe were much more
respectable & precious, like the oil painting tableau that appears in (fig5) si
gned by Giovanni Ender, 1847; it was offered by the Austrian Emperor Francesco G
iuseppe I .

Imported art works have also taken different sizes, kinds & shapes; sculpture wa
s above all these works regarding the Catholic rules (fig6), & with the repeated
dedications & the numerous side altars in the Latin churches, sculpture became
more & more essential & widespread.
But once more, if the sculpture pieces are a little bit small , they can be so s
imply removed & stored according to the new administration of the church, with a
n unknown future, just like many groups of pieces that I could registered & they
do not exist any more in their places.
* Now, if one can think of a social description to the lovely Sacred Heart Churc
h, in (Porte Saeid) street, that would be the "sweet heart" of all Latin Churche
s in Alexandria (fig7); it was designed in Neo-Baroque style by Domenico Limonge
lli & finished in 1926, which means before the Sainte Catherine similar frontal
was renovated in 1927.

Sacred Heart is a Latin Church, & also managed by the Franciscans, but the issue
here is that many Italian persons apparently have decided to make it the riches
t, warmest & the most spiritual one in the city, especially Padre Lodovico Fosch
i, Countess Caroline Tomich, & also Oswald & Josa Finney who were both buried in
a small rich chapel with precious antiques at the back of the main church, whic
h is considered very exceptional in the city churches, it is obvious that the Fi
nney's were representing the category of families who were not thinking of going
back, just like Prince Omar Tousson has told 6.
Being medial in its extent & well designed from the inside, we may not feel in t
he Sacred Heart that something shouldn't be here or there, in fact due to some p
eople like Padre Luigi Luciano who lived & served there for 20 years, the church
is surviving in each part of it; but still, many works in the church need to be
well restored, & thanks to this faithful & kind man as well as to Mr. Denis Ely
I was allowed to discover so many treasure pieces in the depth of the church, &
this, was before Padre Luigi left in the year 2000, after that, the church was
delivered to the Egyptian Franciscan Fathers.

In fact the intimate feeling inside of this church is due to the theatrical ligh
t coming through the stained glass & which was all designed by a very clever & t
alented artist; the main equation to solve here was how to deal with the strong
sun rays in an eastern country by using the same familiar technique in a cold Eu
ropean city.

Thus, (Brev Dari) as it was signed on every single window of the Church (figs 8
& 9), has come to use the Neo-Baroque style in painting with light rather than e
namel colors on the glass, he also set the lower windows horizontally to reduce
the light entrance & even the upper vertical windows were small in their dimensi
ons; but this architectural solutions might have been also presented by the arch
itect Limongelli.

It was also very sensitive to feel that the light penetration was not totally al
lowed except through some center points in each window, not by coincidence but t
hrough a spiritual & symbolic elements in the designs, like halos, fire, sky lig
ht or Divine light; the matter that gives the impression of the singularity as w
ell as the uniqueness of each window, despite that all windows are telling a con
tinuous story, starting from the east, ending in the west.
Although the blue is a very common color in the churches stained glass all over
the world , it can be noticed that it was a little bit minimized in the Sacred H
eart windows, instead of it, a bunch of browns, red ochre & umbers was used, whi
ch led to more intimate, dramatic & warm passion around the prayers.
So, comparing with the fascinating churches of Europe, this artistic & technical
vision was & still not familiar in Alexandria city or maybe Egypt in general, i
t was very well studied & applied & that's why a very deep impression is expecte
d on the visitors of Alexandria Sacred Heart Church.

* Concerning the art of mosaic, it did not really take its share as much as othe
r arts in Alexandria's cosmopolitan architecture, but the fact is that the Itali
an architecture & especially the religious one can be considered the most import
ant kind that gave the mosaics more surfaces among its walls since the first qua
rter of the 20th century (fig10), & not only in number of works but also in mann
er, designs & techniques.

Although the mosaic works in Alexandria are representing the most surviving fore
ign art works, because of its hardness, an important problem remains here; that
most of these magnificent works were not signed & the documents indicating the a
rtists or workshops identities are always missing.
* Any way & despite all what we have loosen, if we just can gather from here & t
here & document what still remains in the churches stores & basements, perhaps i
n a private museum of the Latin heritage in the city or in Egypt in general, & t
he word "Latin" has to be repeated here because some other ethnics heritage in t
he city does not have the same problem like the Greeks for example, who still ru
nning their own cathedrals & churches, if we can only show some respect especial
ly when we claim that we are restoring these arts , we then, would accomplish a
great job in the name of the human heritage.

For pictures:
By: Dr. Zeinab Nour
Artist & Lecturer
Painting Department, Faculty of Fine Arts,
Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt.

1 - Stained Glass by (F. Quentin), Firenze, 1923, Fatma Alzahraa Palace Jewelry
Museum, Alexandria, (the whole window in the right below thumbnail).
2 - Mural painting, Cinema Amir, by Brandanu, 1958.
3 â Ornamental engravings & painting in Aboul Abbas Mosque, 1942, (mehrab marble mos
aics in the upper left corner).
4 â Inside of Sainte Catherine Cathedral, 1834, inaugurated in 1850, after restorati
on of the nineties, (original stone color in the right below thumbnail) .
5 - Sainte Catherine with scientists by Giovanni Ender, oil painting on canvas,
1847. 6 - Sculptures from St.Catherine Cathedral.
7 â Sacred Heart ceiling, renovated in 1952, (detail in the upper right thumbnail).
8 - Bread & fish miracle, stained glass, thumbnail below (west wing upper window
s), by Brev Dari, Milan, 1926.
9 - Sainte Anne delivered Mary the Virgin, side altar, stained glass by Brev Dar
i, Milan, 1926.
10â After the descent, Latin Catholic graves Church, mosaics sponsored by the Gleazz
o Vigano Italian family.