November 2007 - Cairo Egypt
Continuing on my Egyptian theme this week:
The pyramids and Sphinx
As part of our private tour we went to the Coptic area of Cairo. None of us had any awareness of this part of Egyptian history.
Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo which encompasses the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites. It is believed that the Holy Family visited this area and stayed at the site of Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga). Coptic Cairo was a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt until the Islamic era, though most of the current buildings of the churches in Coptic Cairo were built after the Muslim conquest of Egypt.
The Hanging Church (El Muallaqa, Sitt Mariam, St Mary) 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 translates to 'suspended') The church was first built, in Basilcan style, in the 3rd or 4th century. However, at that time it is unlikely that the church would have been constructed in this location. They covered the towers with palm trunks and a layer of stone. The main church is thought to have been built between the 5th and 6th centuries with the southeastern section called the "upper church" being added later. The church was destroyed in the 9th century. It was rebuilt in the 11th century and became the seat of the Coptic patriarchate until the 14th century.
It became known to travelers during the 14th and 15th centuries as the "staircase church" because of the twenty-nine steps that lead to the entrance.