Sing: Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether, UMH 632
Old Cairo is so named because it predates what is now Cairo. Some historians believe that there was a settlement here as far back as the 6th century BC. The Romans built a fortress here. It became a Christian stronghold, with as many as twenty churches built within an area of one square mile. There are only five of these churches remaining today. Also in the area are the oldest Mosque in Egypt and the oldest synagogue in Egypt.
The Cavern Church – Abu Sarga
Abu Sarga, the Church of Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus, also called the Cavern Church, is the oldest church in Egypt and dates back to the 5th century AD. The church owes its fame to having been constructed upon the cavern where the Holy Family stayed for three weeks during their sojourn in Egypt. According to Coptic tradition Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed here on their way back to Israel.
This church is dedicated to the two saints, Sergius and Bacchus, who served as soldiers in the Roman Army. They were faithful followers of the Lord Jesus and refused to worship the Roman gods. For their Christian belief, Sergius and Bacchus eventually suffered martyrdom in Syria in 296 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximinus.
The Hanging Church – The Church of the Virgin Mary
It is called the Hanging Church because it was built on the southern gate of the Roman Fortress. Logs of palm trees and layers of stones were constructed with the ruins of the fortress as the foundation. From the 7th to the 13th centuries the Hanging Church served as the residence of the Coptic Patriarch.
The wood work and the icons of this church are most impressive. The ceiling inside the church is built as a representation of the inside of Noah’s Ark. This was also done in the Cavern Church. These two churches are proof positive that the Christians of Egypt put a high value on the artistic expression of their faith. And in my opinion we are all blessed to have these churches and these people as part of the Body of Christ.