Historical region of Country
Scholars disagree as to when Christians became the majority in Egypt’s population: at the time of Constantine R.S. Bagnall? Toward the end of the 4th c. E. Wipszycka? It is certain, however, that in the 5th c. pagans were decidely in the minority. In some towns, however, they were strong enough to be able to practice their cult, which had been prohibited by the imperial authorities. Among others, groups of monks sometimes took part violently in the fight against pagans who gathered around certain ancient sanctuaries.
II. Liturgy. The surviving liturgical documents from Egypt of the patristic era are rare and fragmentary due to the literary devastations of the Roman persecutions and the Arab conquest. The information we can draw from the works of the Alexandrian fathers or from hagiography is insufficient to reconstruct how the liturgy might have been celebrated in these regions. The diligent investigations whose results F.E. Brightman has brought together Liturgies Eastern and Western I, 1896, Appendix J, 504-509 demonstrate this clearly, even for the liturgy of the Eucharist with which we are better acquainted. It seems that, after the 5th c. at least, this liturgy was heavily influenced by Antiochene customs, esp. through the Apostolic Constitutions. This influence of the Syrian metropolis was reinforced when, from 451, the church of Egypt more decisively asserted its autonomy from Constantinople, and above all from the time of the Arab conquest when Patriarch Benjamin 626 665 reorganized the liturgy, generalizing the use of the Egyptian Coptic language. The decrees of the reforming patriarchs of the 11th and 13th c., the great liturgical and canonical compilations of the 13th-14th c., and finally the Ordinatio of Patriarch Gabriel V 1409 1427 definitively fixed these liturgical traditions whose texts, apart from rare fragments, survive only in MSS of that era. So, for the period that concerns us, we have only fragments that escaped the destruction and whose origin and even meaning remain mostly uncertain.