Churches in Egypt are an integral part of local culture. Churches stand as symbols for Copts’ strong faith, as evidenced by such revered icons as Mona Lisa featuring Baby Jesus and John the Baptist standing before her.
Built under Pope Cyril V’s leadership in 1922 on Cleopatra Street near where it is believed the Holy Family rested during their journey into Egypt, it stands today as a real flag of contemporary Christian design in Cairo.
The Hanging Church of Cairo
The Hanging Church of Cairo (or al-Muallaqa in Arabic) is an impressive church located at the center of Old Cairo. Distinguished by its exquisite ebony-inlaid, bone, and ivory ceiling decorated with intricate geometric designs that hint towards Islamic art, as well as 110 icons such as those depicting St George and John the Baptist being tortured, the Hanging Church is an incredible sight for anyone visiting Egypt’s capital city.
This ancient church is one of the primary religious sites for Coptic Christians. Devoted to Mary and Saints John and George, its sanctuaries serve as important Coptic ritual sites; such as for selecting bishops or burial ceremonies. Furthermore, this site was associated with a reported Marian apparition in 976 AD.
Established in the 9th century, this church is an iconic, domed wood-roofed structure believed to have stood on either the site of Jeremiah Temple or where Pharaoh’s daughter discovered Moses among reeds. It features breathtaking interior design featuring three barrel-vaulted aisles that lead up to an exquisite marble pulpit; two of its marble columns have been painted black to represent Judas betraying Jesus while another column has been colored gray as a representation of Thomas doubt over Jesus resurrection.
The church was constructed in basilica style and stands 30 ft above ground, supported by 15 gracile columns. It’s notable for its wooden roof which resembles Noah’s Ark with elaborate carvings and features 110 icons dating back to 8th century. Furthermore, French monk Vansleb visited it in 1671 when visiting France; on his visit Amr Ibn al-As asked Muslims to treat the church with respect.
To reach the church, take Metro Line 1 to Mar Girgis station and exit onto Sharia al-Muizz li-Din Allah; from here it’s just a short walk or you could hire a taxi or Uber service to arrive there.
The Church of St. Simon the Tanner
The Cave Church of Saint Simon the Tanner or Samaan Al Kharraz monastery is an incredible architectural feat found deep within divine mountains, serving as an eternal testament to faith’s ability to move even the hardest rocks. One of Egypt’s and Middle East’s largest churches, this marvel stands as a testimony to those with faith who have ever lived. Consecrated to Saint Simon the Tanner who worked as a craftsman during Al Muizz’s rule during the 10th century AD is its purposeful construction as well as immortal stories about Saint Simon himself who worked as craftsman throughout his lifetime as memorialization of this special occasion.
The church can be found at the southeastern part of Cairo and is commonly referred to as ‘Garbage City’ due to the large presence of Zabbaleen residents who collect garbage for recycling and have lived in Mokattam since being expelled from Giza in 1970. When Mokattam Coptic Church was opened, Zabbaleen residents felt safe using better building materials in their housing projects.
In 1976, a fire broke out and caused widespread destruction to buildings on Mokattam Mountain, prompting officials to transform its entirety into worship spaces – with one monastery for St Simon the Tanner boasting over 20,000 seats as the most notable example.
Each church is carefully carved directly into the rock face of a mountain and boasts exquisitely sculptured statues as well as Greek and Coptic inscriptions that relate incredible stories about these saints who have left such an impactful mark in society. Visitors are mesmerized by its beauty and captivating tales that are inscribed onto these mountains’ rocks.
This church is open from 6 am until 7 pm each day and free for visitors. It is an extraordinary spot worth taking the time and effort to see, highly recommended!
The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Bombers had left behind broken glass and red brick from their explosion in a church, as the stench of death permeated the scene where a young girl had died from lung lacerations and fragments lodged in her brain – this attack taking place during services for Coptic Christmas, an occasion marked with prayer and hymns by millions of Copts throughout Egypt’s churches and monasteries.
Coptic Christians have made many contributions to Christendom, particularly in terms of theology and interpreting the Bible, but also as scribes who created thousands of manuscripts that serve as archeological research sources today. Many can be found in libraries and museums throughout the world.
Coptic monks made significant scholarly contributions, but were also skilled artisans, excelling at leatherwork, weaving, and woodworking. As master craftspeople they produced many religious utensils and decorative items used both within the church itself as well as being displayed throughout many churches such as that of St Peter and Paul in Egypt.
One of the Church’s greatest contributions was in providing canonical instructions for dealing with individuals who violated their faith by participating in pagan rites under duress and later sought reconciliation with it. Saint Peter helped to address such situations effectively through providing clear guidelines that provided clear resolution, becoming an integral part of Eastern Christianity.
At the height of Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians in 64 A.D., Apostles Peter and Paul were both martyred; Paul’s beheading left behind a spring of water which can still be found within a monastery where visitors can drink from it today.
Pope Francis is making history by traveling to Egypt for the first time since 1996 and comes in response to rising tensions against Christians who make up 10% of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim population. According to Vatican sources, Pope Francis intends to visit as an expression of affection and support for Egypt’s Christian communities who face increased terrorist threats.
The Church of St. John the Baptist
Church of Saint John the Baptist in Egypt is one of its oldest and most extraordinary structures, dating back to around 5th century. Rebuilt again during 11th century reconstruction, its name honors John the Baptist who was killed by Herodias for preaching against Herod Antipas’ sinful lifestyle – who also happened to be John’s cousin and therefore Jesus’ cousin! He also fathered Virgin Mary.
The church was constructed on Macronda Hill, overlooking the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains three sanctuaries and a semicircular choir; most notable is an antique door made of sycamore dating back to about the 5th century; there’s also an ancient well from Moabite times inside this structure.
This church may seem inconsequential at first glance, yet its significance cannot be overstated as it marks where Jesus, Mary and Joseph rested as they entered Egypt for baptism and marked Christianity’s beginnings.
There are various legends surrounding this location. According to some, some believe that the church was originally the palace of King Ptolemy II before being turned into a church; others consider it a temple dedicated to goddess Isis; it also features prominent Coptic and Greek inscriptions within its walls and carvings that add another layer of beauty and wonderment.
This church boasts an architectural masterpiece. Reminiscent of Roman basilican style, its design features distinctive arches. Inside is filled with stunning icons and paintings; making this church an unforgettable must-see experience when in Cairo.
After spreading the Gospel of Christ to Egypt, the apostles immediately began spreading its message throughout the world. They baptized many Egyptians and organized a church in Alexandria – thus giving birth to what would later become the Coptic Orthodox church – soon becoming an epicenter for learning theology with some notable figures in its ranks.
Christian faith honors and cultivates all that is human, making the Christian Church an invaluable force in shaping society as it existed at that time. Christianity’s impact was felt throughout society – particularly the arts – including music, iconography, architecture textiles and literature – as worship is man’s response to God’s infinite love.