Coptic Cairo is home to some of the most famous churches in Egypt, is the oldest part of the city, and is considered an essential factor in shaping Egypt as we know it today. So don’t miss a visit to the Coptic Museum, the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, and the Hanging Church.
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What does “Coptic” mean?
“Coptilian” refers to a Christian church group originating in Egypt. One of Christianity’s earliest churches is the Coptic Church.
The Coptic Cairo:
Mogama el Adyan (Interfaith Complex), or Coptic Cairo, is a region unlike any other in Egypt. It is a component of “Old Cairo,” which has been the city’s primary location for centuries. Coptic Cairo, with its citadel, churches, and synagogue, predates the Muslim Fatimids, who founded Cairo in 969 AD.
Old Cairo’s Coptic neighborhood is the center of Christianity in the city. It is home to numerous temples that date back to the time before Islam and the demise of the pharaonic religions of Ancient Egypt. In Coptic Egypt, several of the first churches still stand today; some date back to the fourth century AD. The Holy Family may have spent a brief time here during their flight into Egypt to flee Herod.
In an important archaeological area, as it is close to the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque and the Ibn Ezra Synagogue, and includes:
1- The Coptic Museum:
The Coptic Museum has the most extensive collection of Coptic antiquities in the world. The Coptic Museum was built to fill a gap in Egyptian history and art. The vast array of artifacts, most of which are of great importance to Coptic art in the world.
The Coptic Museum was founded by the late Mark Samika (Pasha) in 1910 to fill a gap in the records of Egyptian art and help study the history of Christianity in Egypt.
In 1893, Mark Pasha Samika demanded that the collection of Coptic antiquities be included in the interests of the Committee for the Preservation of Antiquities and Arts. This man struggled for a long time until he established the museum’s current building, which opened in 1910, and was appointed as the museum’s first director. The first guide to the museum was published in 1930.
The Morcos Simika Pasha built the museum in 1910 to collect the necessary materials for studying the history of Christianity in Egypt. He succeeded in this project. There were different museums at that time in Egypt: the Cairo Museum of the Ancient Pharaonic, the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.
The museum was built on a land endowment belonging to the Coptic Church, which it willingly offered at the disposal of its founder, His Holiness, the late Cyril V (who died in 1927 AD, followed by Anba Younis the nineteenth in 1929 AD).
The Coptic Museum, with its old and new wings, and the Hanging Church, was developed and opened in 1984.
2- The Hanging Church (Al-Mu’allaqa)
The Hanging Church is located in the Old Cairo district, in the important archaeological area of Coptic Cairo, as it is close to the Amr Ibn Al-Aas Mosque, the Ibn Ezra Synagogue, the Church of Saint Mina next to the Babylon Fortress, the Church of Martyr Mercurius (Abu Sefein), and many other churches. And it was called the Hanging because it was built on two of the ancient towers of the Roman fortress (Babylon Fort), which Emperor Trajan built in the second century AD. The Hanging is the oldest church that remains in Egypt.
Some accounts say that the church was built on the ruins of a place where the Holy Family (the Virgin Mary, Christ the Child, and Saint Joseph the Carpenter) took refuge during the three years they spent in Egypt; according to the Bible, to escape from Herod, the ruler of Palestine, who had ordered the killing of children for fear of A prophecy. Some see it as a place for a cell (an area of seclusion) in which one of the hermit monks lived in one of the rocky vaults excavated in the business.
The church was renewed several times during the era of Islam, once during the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid when the patriarch Anba Morcos asked the governor for permission to restore the church. And a third time, in the era of the apparent cherishing of the religion of God. It has been the seat of many patriarchs since the eleventh century, and Patriarch Christodoulos was the first to take the Hanging Church as the seat of the Pope of Alexandria. Several patriarchs were buried there in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and there are still pictures and icons in the church that lit candles. And the trials of priests and bishops and the practices of heretics were also held there. It is considered an important shrine for the Copts due to its historical antiquity, the connection of the place with the Holy Family, and its presence among churches and monasteries of venerable saints, so it is easy to visit them as well.
3- Church of St. George (Mar Girgis)
St. George’s is one of the few circular churches constructed in Egypt, and it lies atop a former Roman tower that linked the monastery below.
The church’s interior is renowned for its elaborate woodwork and beautiful glass.
In the Coptic neighborhood of Cairo, St. George’s is one of the few still-operating churches and is regarded as the leading Greek Orthodox church in Egypt. All visitors are welcome at any time, except the monastery, which is off limits to outsiders.
When it was reconstructed in 1857, the church of St. George had existed there since 684. The bridal chamber, a room designated solely for weddings, was constructed for the temple in the fourth century A.D. On top of the Roman tower in the Babylon Fortress lies a circular church. It was destroyed by fire in 1904, and the following year, in 1909, it was reconstructed. Since the 1500s, the church has been Greek Orthodox.
4- Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga)
Cairo’s oldest church is allegedly St. Sergius, which dates back to the fourth century AD. Because it was constructed where the Holy Family slept after their journey through Egypt, the church is significant in history. The Episcopal Church in Cairo selected numerous Coptic Church patriarchs, and the first person chosen for this position was Isaac (681-692). The Roman soldiers Sergio and Bacchus perished in Syria in the fourth century and are remembered in the church.
The structure has twelve columns and three altars. A photograph of one of Jesus’ twelve disciples can be found on each column. The Fustat fire, which began around 750 when Marwan II was in command, destroyed the structure, most likely constructed in the fifth century. It was built in the eighth century, and since the Middle Ages, restorations have been made.
Additionally, it’s thought that they may have resided here while the Babylon Fortress employed Joseph.
A further reason Abu Serga is significant is that it was there that the Coptic Church’s first patriarch, Isaac, was chosen in 681 AD.
5- Church of St. Barbara
Another ancient church that still contains rare artifacts is the Church of St. Barbara the Martyr (although many of them have been moved to the Coptic Museum). Items from the original church are thought to date back to the fifth or perhaps the fourth century, even though the church itself has undergone numerous reconstructions and restorations.
The precise date of the church of Saint Barbara’s founding is unknown. The original building was destroyed by fire in 750 AD, although it was severely damaged and reconstructed in the eleventh century. It is believed that Saint Barbara’s father was furious with her for choosing to convert to Christianity. He tortured her until she rejected Christ in front of her father after giving her over to Marcian, the Roman prefect. She was standing in a pool of blood, stripped to the bone and beaten, yet she wouldn’t deny Jesus. She had completely recovered from her wounds, and she was overcome with heavenly delight while spending the night in captivity.
6- St. Mercurius Church (Abu Seifien)
According to Abu Seifien, St. Mercurius Church is still standing on its original foundation. This foundation stands beyond the defensive walls of Babylon, next to the Amr Mosque. In Coptic Egyptian tradition, St. Mercurius is referred to as the “Saint with the Two Swords.” According to the legend, an angel appeared and gave him a sword so he could battle the barbarians.
While they were engaged in battle with the Persians, he ran to Julian the Apostate and slashed him with a sword. He is typically depicted as a horseman wielding two swords in Coptic art. It was constructed in his honor in the sixth century, and a lot of work was done there in the eleventh century. The church comprises two churches placed on top of one another. Other smaller chapels were constructed for various saints but are no longer in use.
7- Saint Menas (Mar Mina)
The church of Saint Menas was constructed in the sixth century, and it underwent renovations in the ninth century, together with the nearby Saints Benham and George churches. Built-in 1164, the dome. The substantial Christian population in Cairo was founded on this. Of the three churches in the compound, the Church of Anba Shenouda is the most significant (fifth century A.D.). The Minya governorate contains two different churches. The settlements where she is supposed to have originated are called Abu Seifein and the Virgin of Damashir, respectively. This museum’s collection includes 175 Coptic icons, wall paintings, etchings, and stained glass objects. Both the Old and New Testaments are depicted in these scenarios.
8- Ben Ezra Synagogue
The building was once a Coptic church, but Jerusalem’s Abraham Ben Ezra purchased it and turned it into a synagogue. It is located directly behind the Hanging Church, and it is thought to be the location where the infant Moses was discovered.
The Ben Ezra synagogue had numerous renovations over the ages, and the present building dates from 1892. It has two stories and is constructed as a basilica, with the first floor reserved for men and the second for women.
Due to the sharp fall in Cairo’s Jewish population, the synagogue no longer serves as an active place of prayer but doubles as a museum and tourist destination.
9- Babylon Fortress
The ruins of the Babylon Fortress, which were built on the site of an ancient Ancient Egyptian town of the same name, are among the first sights you’ll notice when you approach Coptic Cairo. The fortification was really constructed by the Romans in the Ptolemic period of Ancient Egypt, circa 100 AD, despite being called after Babylon in Mesopotamia. It served as a boundary marker between Upper and Lower Egypt and was constructed where a canal connected the Nile to the Red Sea. In the year 641 AD, the Arab conquest led to its capture.
Don’t miss to check out our Coptic Cairo Tour to Churches and Coptic Museum