Christian Cairo, Cairo
To get to Saint Samaan Church you have to go through Garbage City , the smell of the garbage is overpowering so if you have sensitive olfactory nerves I'd suggest a mask.
The road to the church is long and winding, at times I didn't think the van would be able to make the turns. It looks very dark and dirty going through the Garbage City but then all of a sudden you drive through the gates and find yourself in the most peaceful and tranquil oasis. You see the most amazing artwork and biblical verses carved in the white limestone of the mountain. The carvings were all produced by a Polish artist named Mario who came to Egypt as a young man. He started the carvings in 1986, and is still working on them.
The Monastery contains seven Churches and Chapels hidden in a series of caves in the Mokattam hills. The two main churches are named after the Virgin Mary and St Simon in commemoration of a legend which says that Simon the Tanner moved the Mokattam mountain with the power of his faith and prayers.
This is also one of the best views of Cairo. You can see the entire city from the hill. This would be a fantastic place to come and watch the twinkling lights of Cairo late at night over a cup of hot coffee...there is a coffee shop on the other side, which converts into an open air cafe at night offering coffee and sheesha.
Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church, that is the official name of the Hanging Church, so called because of it's location. When you enter the gate, you will notice that the church's entrance is elevated, taking the staircase to get to the church.
The small courtyard right infront of the stairs leading to the church is quaint and the inner walls have some sort of biblical scene or saints made of ceramic tiles. Inside the first entrance (not the gate) to the church is a fountain, reminded me of local houses in Damascus, and the second entrance is the inside of the church itself. There's some kind of a beauty about this church, there are so many interesting items inside the church like icons some of which dates back to 8th century, and many glass-encased personal belongings of saints (or past coptic popes?). The staff around the church are mostly youths (maybe volunteers?) who are very welcoming. The Hanging Church is the official residence and of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria after the Arab invasion starting in the year 1047.
Located in an area called Coptic Cairo (or christian Cairo), it is easy to visit the church using the public transport - Metro Line 1. And as I was staying near Tahrir Square, I took the Metro from Sadat Station - few steps - and got off the metro on the 4th stop called Mar Girgis station, and the church is right there on your right side once you step out of the metro station.
You can visit this church from 9am to 4pm, not during mass though, unless you're attending the mass.
Entry is Free... but you can leave a donation in any amount if so you desire right before you exit.
Built at the end of the 19th century, this Armenian Catholic Church is one of many churches representing different Christian sects (and religions) in "European" Cairo. Although Armenian presence in Egypt dates back many centuries, there were two large arrivals in modern times. The first occurred in the early 19th century when the ruler of Egypt invited Armenians to participate in the modernisation of Egypt. The second wave of arrivals happened in the early 20th century following the terrible conflict with the Ottomans. Although once estimated to be 60,000 strong, the Armenian community has dwindled down to around 5000 well-integrated Egyptian citizens (among them is the Arab world-famous actress/performer Nelly). Many Armenians chose to return to Armenia in the '20s and '30s with the arrival of the Soviets, who were seen as liberators, while others left Egypt in the post-revolution era, as did many non-Egyptians in the '50s and '60s.
The Metropolitan Church is the most famous Coptic Christian church in Cairo. It has four names: Sitt Miriam, Church of the Virgin Mary, well known as El-Moallaqa or the "Hanging Church". It derives its name from its location on top of the southern tower gate of the old Babylon fortress with its nave suspended above the passage (Muallaqa is translated as 'suspended'). It is considered to be founded in the fourth century. It was rebuilt in the ninth century and on a number of later occasions.
It became known to travelers during the XIV-th and XV-th centuries as the "staircase church" because of the twenty-nine steps that lead to the entrance.
The church isn’t very large. It measures 25 meters long, 20 meters wide and 10 meters high.
The narthex leads into the nave (divided into four aisles, but originally with at least five), with the pulpit. There are three chapels shut off by old carved screens; the central one (the heikal or sanctuary) is dedicated to Christ, the one on the north to St George, the one on the south to John the Baptist.
The entrance into the church is located at the outer part of the Citadel just opposite the Mar Girgis metro station.
It is open daily 9.00 – 16.00.
To learn more The Hanging Church, Cairo
You may watch my video-clip from my personal channel on YouTube: 2 min 52 sec Egypt Cairo Old El Muallaka 2007
It is believed that there was a settlement in the area, which is called Old Cairo now as far back as the VI-th century BC. Later, the Romans built a fortress here. Some of these Roman walls still exist and can be seen in this area. This Roman fortress had the name of Babylon.
The main entrance is perhaps one of the two oldest structures in Cairo. The rounded towers of the western gate of the Roman fortress of Babylon built in the I-st century by Emperor Trajan. The Southern gate is the other oldest structure.
The Greek Church of St. George (Mari Girgis) is one of the few round churches still exist in the East, formed from it's placement atop a rounded Roman tower.
The Church is founded in the VII-th century.
The steps into the Church are built on the outer wall and the Roman towers. You will find a relief of St. George and the dragon (by the Russian artist Boris Fredman-Klusell) wrapped around the outer brickwork of the tower. The church had been burned many times. It burned completely in 1904. Its modern view was formed in 1909. For centuries, the Church alternated between ownership by the Copts and the Greek, but since the XV-th century it has remained Greek Orthodox, and the adjoining Monastery of St. George. In 1950th the most of Greeks left Egypt and the Monastery doesn’t exist now.
The Church has a richly decorated nave and beautiful stained-glass windows.
It is open daily 8.00-12.45 and 14.30 – 15.15.
You may watch my video-clip from my personal channel on YouTube: 2 min 39 sec Egypt Cairo Old St George Monastery 2007
The Church of Sitt Barbara is founded in the V-th century and rebuilt in the Xth-XIth centuries. I want to retell you a legend which I found on a tourist guide…
Saint Barbara was a beautiful young lady. She was the daughter of a wealthy nobleman and merchant who was a pagan.
Tradition provides that he built a magnificent tower to safeguard his daughter, perhaps from the growing influence of Christianity. However, during his frequent business trips abroad, she was converted to Christianity.
Legend has it that when her father discovered her conversion (possibly when Saint Barbara tried to convert him), in a fit of rage, he turned her over to the Roman prefect who, under the watching eyes of her father, was to torture her until she denied Christ. She was stripped and struck with whips and clubs until she stood in a pool of her own blood, yet she would not deny Christ. Afterwards, she was thrown in to prison where, during the night, god completely healed her wounds and filled her with heavenly joy.
The next day, while the prefect was amazed to see her wounds had healed, he demanded that she denounce Christ, and when she refused. After additional torture, he became frustrated with her, and ordered her to be taken out and killed. It was her father himself who led her from the city and with his own sword, decapitated her. On his way home, however, a god had him struck by a bolt of lightning, killing him instantly.
The Church is open daily 8.00-16.00.
The Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Abu Serga) was built in the IV-th century. It is considered to be the oldest of Cairo's Christian churches. It is dedicated to two early martyrs. It is traditionally believed to have been built on the spot where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress. The church is of significant historical importance and is certainly a must in Christian Cairo.
The building was probably constructed during the V-th century. It was burned during fires and was then restored in the VIII-th century and has been rebuilt and restored constantly since medieval times.
The Church is open daily 8.00-16.00.
You may watch my video-clip from my personal channel on YouTube: 2 min 28 sec Egypt Christian Cairo 2007
There are two St. George Churches in Old Cairo. One belongs to the former Greek Orthodox Convent. It’s seen from everywhere and nobody misses it while strolling around Christian part of Cairo.
Another church is small and hidden in the quarter. It was founded in the VII-th century but was lost in the XIX-th century in fire. The new building was constructed in Coptic traditions. Interiors are rather poor I should say…
The Church is open daily 8.00-16.00.
This beautiful Romanesque/Florentine church of Saint Joseph was built by the architect Aristide Leonori in 1909 to serve the growing Roman Catholic community, largely Italians and French, in the Europeanised part of Cairo called Ismailiah. A previous small church existed on the site since the 19th century, when the Khedive Ismail (ruler of Egypt of the time) donated the land for the purpose. With the departure of most of Cairo's European Catholic population post-revolution in the '50s and '60s, the importance of the church has diminished. Yet to this day, service is still conducted in the church in Italian, French and Arabic. (Prior to the revolution, the Italian community was estimated to be around 200,000, and the French around 40,000 in the whole of Egypt).
Originating in France, the Congrégation de la Mère de Dieu was created in the 17th century for the Catholic education of poor orphaned girls. Over time, it developed into a reputable educational establishment in France. In 1879, the Khedive Tawfiq, ruler of Egypt, invited the congregation to create a similar establishment in Egypt for the education of girls. They accepted the invitation and first opened in Alexandria, followed by Cairo. In 1921, the Pensionnat Mère de Dieu moved to a new location, a Gothic style building in Garden City, which continues to educate Cairene girls to this day with French as the primary language of instruction.
The Shrine containing the remains of St. Mark, which have been moved from Venice to Cairo, is located on the left side of the Al-Qiddis Morcos complex.
St Mark was the first to preach Christianity in Egypt.
As I was told, the Cathedral of Al-Qiddis Morcos (St Mark), that was recently built in Abbassia, a suburb of Cairo, is the largest church in Africa.
Unfortunately at the time of our visit the cathedral was closed and despite all our efforts it was impossible to visit it inside.
with a 10% christian population, egypt boasts many churches. in coptic cairo there were as many as 20 per sq mile (or something like that the rep spoke baaaaad english) in the area now there are 5 coptic churches worth taking a look at. there is also a synagogue and the oldest mosque (645 ad if i remember correctly, but correct me if wrong)
Small city just outside Cairo, Zeitun is the place where from 1968 to 1970 Virgin Mary appeared in different forms over the Coptic Virgin Mary Church.
The events started on April 2nd 1968, with the apparitions of some "spiritual images" similar to dove-shaped luminous bodies flying around the church.
Few seconds after, a bright figure, initially having a confuse form and dimensions, took the characteristics of a human body.
The apparitions lasted from a few minutes up to several hours.
They were seen by millions of Egyptians and foreigners, Copts, Orthodox and Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews.