Named for a young Nicodemian woman who was killed by her pagan father for converting, the church was originally dedicated to Sts. Cyrus and John (in Arabic, Abu Qir and Yuhanna, respectively), two martyrs from the city of Damanhour. It is said that when they refused to renounce their Christianity, they were shot with arrows, burned, and drawn and quartered, but would not die until they were beheaded.
The church was first built in 684, destroyed in the great fire of Fustat in 750, and then restored in the 11th century. Additions were made when the relics of Saint Barbara were brought here. The church is one of the largest in Cairo. Replete with the standard division of narthex, nave, side aisles, and three sanctuaries, the church is also considered one of the city's finest.
The sanctuary screen currently in place is a 13th-century wooded piece inlaid with ivory—the original screen is in the Coptic Museum. The icons above the church's screen include a newly restored Child
Enthroned and a rare icon of Saint Barbara. A domed apse behind the main altar has seven steps decorated in bands of black, red, and white marble. To the left of the sanctuary is the chapel dedicated to Sts. Cyrus and John, a square structure with a nave, transept, two sanctuaries (one for each saint), and a baptistry.
Access to Coptic Cairo's cemetery is through an iron gate to the left of the church.