Fodor's Expert Review The Hanging Church

Old Cairo (Coptic Cairo) Historical
Free

What's known in Arabic as al-Muallaqah (The Suspended Church) is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. It sits atop a gatehouse of the Roman fortress, was originally built in the 9th century, and has since been rebuilt several times. Only the section to the right of the sanctuary, above the southern bastion, is considered original. Nevertheless, it is one of the city's most impressive churches.

The entrance gates open to a flight of stairs that lead onto a covered courtyard, the narthex, paved with glazed geometrical tiles dating from the 11th century. Beyond the narthex is the nave, the main section of the church where services are held. Most columns in Coptic churches were painted with pictures of saints, but few of the paintings survived. Those in the Hanging Church are no exception; only one column still has traces of a figure on it.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this space is the marble pulpit. Considered the oldest existing pulpit in the country, it was constructed... READ MORE

What's known in Arabic as al-Muallaqah (The Suspended Church) is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. It sits atop a gatehouse of the Roman fortress, was originally built in the 9th century, and has since been rebuilt several times. Only the section to the right of the sanctuary, above the southern bastion, is considered original. Nevertheless, it is one of the city's most impressive churches.

The entrance gates open to a flight of stairs that lead onto a covered courtyard, the narthex, paved with glazed geometrical tiles dating from the 11th century. Beyond the narthex is the nave, the main section of the church where services are held. Most columns in Coptic churches were painted with pictures of saints, but few of the paintings survived. Those in the Hanging Church are no exception; only one column still has traces of a figure on it.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this space is the marble pulpit. Considered the oldest existing pulpit in the country, it was constructed in the 11th century, though some of its components are older. The pulpit is supported by slender columns arranged in pairs of which no two are alike. Some say this represents the sacraments; others describe it as being symbolic of Christ and his disciples.

The sanctuary screen is made of cedar and ivory cut in small segments and then inlaid in wood to form a Coptic cross. The top of the screen is covered with icons: Christ is depicted in the center; the Virgin, the archangel Gabriel, and St. Peter are on the right; and St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, and the archangel Michael are on the left. Behind the screen is the sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary. To the right is another screen dating from the 13th century and made of wood and mother-of-pearl. It glows dark pink when a candle is held behind it. Behind this is a small chapel attached to the Ethiopian St. Takla Haymanot Church. A stairway leads from this chapel to one above it, dedicated to St. Mark. This area is probably the oldest part of the church, built in the 3rd century when this was still a bastion of the old Roman fort.

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Historical Free Church

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Mari Gerges St., Kom Ghorab
Cairo, Cairo  Egypt

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