Hanging Church in Old Cairo

Monday, 10 April 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  4 minutes

© Radosław Botev/cc-by-3.0-pl

© Radosław Botev/cc-by-3.0-pl

Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church (Church of Mother of God Saint Mary in Egyptian Babylon), also known as the Hanging Church, is one of the oldest churches in Egypt which dates to the third century. It belongs to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

The Hanging Church is named for its location above a gatehouse of Babylon Fortress, the Roman fortress in Coptic Cairo (Old Cairo); its nave is suspended over a passage. The church is approached by twenty-nine steps; early travelers to Cairo dubbed it “the Staircase Church”. The land surface has risen by some six metres since the Roman period, so the Roman tower is mostly buried below ground, reducing the visual impact of the church’s elevated position. The entrance from the street is through iron gates under a pointed stone arch. The nineteenth-century facade with twin bell towers is then seen beyond a narrow courtyard decorated with modern art biblical designs. Up the steps and through the entrance is a further small courtyard leading to the eleventh-century outer porch.

The Hanging Church is the most famous Coptic Christian church in Cairo, as well as possibly the first built in basilican style. The church is the site of several reported Marian apparitions. She is said to have appeared in a dream to Pope Abraham in the 970s in the story of how the Mokattam Mountain was moved by the faith of Simon the Tanner.

The barrel vaulted roof © Bertramz/cc-by-sa-3.0 Iconostasis © Charlesdrakew Iconostasis © ThutmoseIII/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Mohamed kamal 1984/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Radosław Botev/cc-by-3.0-pl Street facade and entrance door © Charlesdrakew
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The barrel vaulted roof © Bertramz/cc-by-sa-3.0
The Hanging Church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains sanctuaries to her and Saints John the Baptist and George. The church held many important ceremonies for the Coptic hierarchy of Cairo. These include the selection and burial of patriarchs, the former occurring from the 11th to 14th centuries while the latter only between the 11th and 12th, as well as the consecration of holy oil and judgement of heresy trials; selection of the date of Easter for every year was another important proceeding held within. These processes are held at the Hanging Church due to the movement in the 11th century of the patriarchal seat to Cairo from Alexandria.

The Hanging Church has 110 icons, the oldest of which dates back to the 8th century, but most of them date to the 18th century. Nakhla Al-Baraty Bey gave some of them as gifts, in 1898, when he was the overseer of the church.

Present structure of the church comprises the primitive church in the south and a principal church to the north, believed to be built between the third to seventh century and between the fifth to seventh century respectively. The principal church is a basilica plan contained within a rectangular outer wall and features three apses. Its nave is surrounded by three aisles. Its layout is double-aisled but lacks transepts. The ambon (pulpit) features 15 Islamic columns mounted on a white marble slab. By the late 19th century, the primitive church consisted of three chapels and a baptistery and was connected to the south nave of the principal church by the first chapel. The church was periodically altered and restored in response to plundering. This reconstruction included the addition of a barrier wall during the reign of caliph al-Hakim.

Read more on Wikipedia Hanging Church (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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