Hanging Church

sights / Religious

Hanging Church information

Location
Cairo , Egypt
Address
Sharia Mar Girgis
Opening hours
Coptic Mass 8-11am Wed & Fri, 9-11am Sun
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Just south of the museum on Sharia Mar Girgis (the main road parallel with the metro), a stone facade inscribed with Coptic and Arabic marks the entrance to the 9th-century (some say 7th-) Hanging Church, so named because it is suspended over the Water Gate of Roman Babylon. Still in use, it is equally crowded with tourists and parishioners who come to pray over a collection of saints’ relics and an icon of Mary. Steep stairs lead to a 19th-century facade topped by twin bell towers. In a small inner courtyard, vendors sell taped liturgies and videos of the Coptic pope, Shenouda III.

With its three barrel-vaulted, wooden-roofed aisles, the interior of the church feels like an upturned ark. Ivory-inlaid screens hiding the altar have intricate geometric designs that are distinguishable from Islamic patterns only by the tiny crosses worked into them. Between the pews, a fine pulpit used only on Palm Sunday stands on 13 slender pillars that represent Christ and his disciples; one of the pillars, darker than the rest, is said to symbolise Judas. In the baptistry, off to the right, a panel has been cut out of the floor to reveal the Water Gate below.