About Coptic Cairo
The term Coptic Cairo refers to that section in the Egyptian capital that hosts some of the most interesting Coptic monuments in the country. Numerous tourists spending their vacation in Egypt visit Coptic Cairo every year.
Spread in Egypt as early as the 1st century AD, Egypt has some of the most remarkable historical monasteries and churches in the Middle East. This includes the Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sinai and the Monastery of Saint Antony in the region of the Red Sea near El Sokhna. Many Egypt tours include visits to some of most important Christian historical sites in the land of the Nile.
Geographical Location of Coptic Cairo
Coptic Cairo is located at the heart of a neighborhood that is called Masr El Qadema or Old Cairo, a name that is quite expressive. The first monument to be built at that area is the famous Babylon Fort of the Romans which the Christians took control of later on in history.
Coptic Cairo can be reached via a taxi or even by the underground metro. The guests spending their vacation in Egypt can take the underground from any station and leave the metro at the Mari Gerges station that is located in the middle of Coptic Cairo.
However, it is always recommended, especially for tourists spending their holidays in Egypt for the first time, to book an organized tour to Egypt with one of the certified travel companies in the country.
The History of Christianity in Egypt
After the decline of the ancient Egyptian religion of multi gods and before Egypt became a country where Islam is the official religion, Christianity was spread all over its regions.
At that point in time from the 2nd to 6th centuries, while Cairo was not yet established, there was nothing in the location of the city today except a Roman fortress and a small town. The capital of Egypt at that time was Alexandria.
The word Copt was actually derived from the word Qibty that was in turn derived from the word Aegyptios that means Egyptian in the ancient Greek language.
Saint Mark, one of the 12 Apostles, was the one who spread the religion of Christianity in Egypt during the 1st century BC. Afterwards, the city of Alexandria became one of the five patriarchates; branches of Christian Churches headed by patriarchs who were the ascendants of the apostles. By the 4th century AD, Christianity became the official religion of Egypt.
Afterwards, in the middle of the 5th century AD, the Copts of Egypt split from the Orthodox Church after the council of Chalcedon proclaimed. This took place in the year 451 in particular when the Patriarch of Alexandria decided to be independent from the central church.
Coptic Cairo Churches
The Church of Saint George or Mar Girgis
Long before the crusaders came back to Europe to tell the stories of the legends of saint George, he was venerated in the region of the Middle East as Mar Girgis.
It was said that Mar Girgis was killed by the Roman emperor, Diocletian for his converting into Christianity in the 3rd century AD. There was a church dedicated to the Mar Girigis as early as the 10th century AD.
In fact this impressive round shaped church we view today of Mar Girgis or Saint George dates only to the 20th century. It was constructed in this cylinder shape in accordance with the Babylon Fort with its ruins situated next to it today.
The Hanging Church
The Hanging Church is one of the most popular and important monuments in Coptic Cairo. It was so called because it was built on two towers of the Babylon Fort situated just behind it. The Hanging Church is the most ancient surviving church in Egypt today.
The Hanging Church was constructed during the 5th century on the ruins of a place where it was said the holy family has resorted to during the three years they spent in Egypt escaping the cruel Roman ruler of Palestine at the time.
The church was restored two times during the Islamic rule of Egypt. The first was during the reign of Haroun El Rashid and the second time was during the ruling period of the Fatimid Sultan Al Aziz Bellah who gave permission to the Patriarch of Egypt to restore and repair all the churches of Egypt.
The Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo has a rectangle shape and it consists of two floors featured with the Basilica style of architecture. After entering through the gate in the walls of the church, there is a fountain and some portraits of former popes. The Church has some marvelous icons and portraits of the Christ and Virgin Mary.
The Synagogue of Ben Ezra
Jews has been present in Egypt as early as the period of the old Testament. The Ben Ezra Synagogue was actually a church that was constructed in the 8th century AD.
This church collapsed in the 12th century and the land was given to the Rabbi that came from Palestine and his name was Abraham Ben Ezra who constructed this Synagogue.
Some repair works carried out in the 19th century has found a large number of ancient Hebrew papers and manuscripts. The Synagogue witnessed another intensive restoration in the 1980s and it is considered one of the few Jewish monuments in Egypt.
The Church of Saint Barbra
The Church of Saint Barbra was named after a Coptic martyr who was killed in the 3rd century AD by her father after she tried to convince him to convert to Christianity.
The church was built in the 11th century on the ruins of a much older church that was named after Saint John and Saint Cyrus.
The Church of Saint Barbra is famous for its wonderful icons and its sanctuary screen that is made out of wood with inlaid finely ornamented ivory.
Coptic Cairo Museum
Constructed in 1947, the Coptic Museum has some of the most remarkable Christian antiquities found in Egypt all over time and the museum attracts many travelers who tour Egypt.
The museum building itself, being renovated during the last ten years, is quite notable for its wonderful wooden ceilings, Mashrabeya screens and windows, and a nice garden.
The Museum displays many wonderful exhibit from the early Coptic period in Egypt in which the Pharaonic influences are quite evident. We can see the Ankh and other falcons that seem like Horus in many displays.
The exhibits in the Coptic Museum include many magnificent stone capitals collected from various churches around Egypt. There is also a large number of Coptic textiles, pottery, a large collection of icons, wooden items, many ancient books and Christian’s manuscripts, and many other more interesting displays.