Mentioned in several ancient Coptic texts but forgotten by the church today, the monastery of Al-Muharraqa was situated once on the West bank of the Nile, today known as the Saudiyyah village. It is to the south of Tammua, not far from the pyramids of Lisht, Meidum, and Dahshur. It is highly possible that these pharaonic funeral archetectures may have being reused by the early Christians as a place of worship.
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The next location on the official list of Holy Family’s southward itinerary is Maadi, a suburb city 10 kilometers south of Old Cairo. According to the tradition, the Holy Family embarked for Upper Egypt here in order to escape from the pursuing soldiers of Herod. The local priest believes that the Church of the Virgin Mary in Maadi is situated on the place of an ancient synagogue used during a time when some Jews had fled to Egypt for refuge.
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The origin of the monastery remains obscure but is alleged to date from the 7th century. What attracts people’s eyes today is the giant 7.6 meters door in the main hall of the monastery that leads to the interior of the complex. Off the main hall is a room set aside as a shrine, it contains the chains that were placed on St. George as part of the tortures to which he was sentenced after his trial under the Persian King Dadianos.
Continue reading The Convent of St. George (Mar Girgis)
Built above one of the fortress towers of the Babylon, the Church of St. George is a Greek Orthodox church in Coptic Cairo. It was originally built in the 7th century, but the current structure was rebuilt following a 1904 fire. St. George is the only round church in Egypt, but unlike the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its many imitators, this is only for practical reasons – it is built atop the foundations of a Roman round tower.
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The Church of St. Sergius and St Bacchus, or Abu Serga in Arabic, is among the most ancient churches in Old Cairo. It is built over the traditional site of a cave said to have sheltered the Holy Family during their sojourn in the area.
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Called by the name of the Hanging Church, the Church of the Virgin Mary in the Coptic Cairo enjoys a popularity among both Copts and tourists. It was named the Hanging Church, or al-Muallaqa in Arabic, due to its location above the ancient Babylon fortress. The other names for the same complex are the Church of Steps, for people have to climb a flight of stairs before reaching the gate of the church; the Church of the Column, for it was reported that the Virgin Mary herself appeared to the faithful on one of the columns of the church in response to their supplications.
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Although the date and the etymology of this defending structure remain disputed, one thing for sure is that in the age of Augustus the Deltaic Babylon already became a town of some importance, and was the headquarters of the three legions which ensured the obedience of Egypt.
Continue reading Fortress of Babylon