I started to post about this in the thread about H.H. Karekin and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I decided it needed its own thread. The Copts were the first missionaries in Great Britain. As I posted in the other thread: Writing in 1898, the renowned historian Stanley Lane-Poole remarked: “We do not yet know how much we in the British Isles owe to these remote hermits. It is more probable that to them we are indebted for the first preaching of the Gospel in England, where, till the coming of Augustine, the Egyptian monastic rule prevailed. But more important is the belief that Irish Christianity, the great civilizing agent of the early Middle Ages among the northern nations, was the child of the Egyptian Church. Seven Egyptians monks are buried at Disert Uldith, and there is much in the ceremonies and architecture of Ireland in the earliest time that reminds one of still earlier Christian remains in Egypt. Everyone knows that the handicraft of the Irish monks in the ninth and tenth centuries far excelled anything that could be found elsewhere in Europe; and if the Byzantine-looking decoration of their splendid gold and silver work, and their unrivalled (sic) illuminations, can be traced to the influence of Egyptian missionaries, we have more to thank the Copts for than has been imagined”.
And there's more...the “Book of Leinster”, housed in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, contains a litany which reads: “Seven Egyptian monks in Disert Ullaigh, I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ”. Three other manuscripts in the Academy contain similar supplications, and a fourth contains a guide for Irish pilgrims wishing to travel to the famous desert of Scetis in the Nitrean Valley, Egypt. A fifth Irish manuscript places the Apostolic Sees in the following order: Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome. Some scholars are of the opinion that the initials and miniatures on these manuscripts reveal an Egyptian influence, and that there was an indirect influence of Coptic iconography on Northumbrian monastic art and culture.
The Irish historian Jospeh F. Kelly said “It is difficult to assess what is ‘native’ Celtic and what is influenced by monasticism, especially Egyptian asceticism. Most scholars believe that Celtic Christianity is a combination of the two...The demanding monasticism of the desert appealed to the heroic character of tribal Celtic society. Both emphasized individualism. The Egyptians went to desert retreats, the Celts to offshore islands; the Egyptians wandered in the unknown wilderness, the Irish ventured out on the uncharted North Atlantic. Both movements were products of a rural society...The Egyptian portrayal of the desert as the symbolic Eden is reflected in the Celtic fondness for the natural world, so prevalent in vernacular poetry. In both regions, the saints did indeed live with animals, and their hagiography - especially the Celtic - includes tales of saints and animals”.
I guess it is fitting that the BOC is now under the See of Alexandria (Althoug I know some Syriac Christians who would beg to differ. But I won't get into that...).