Photo Essay: Coptic Cairo’s Unique “Hanging Church”

Cairo’s an incredible city. It’s a fascinating breed of sheer chaos. I mean, how many places can you go where you can openly buy a Taser right on the street? Aside from experiencing the energy of the metropolis (and visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza), I had no plans when I arrived there. After all, Egypt wasn’t even in my travel plans. Thankfully, one of the two North American cohorts I was now traveling with was on a mission…to visit Coptic Cairo.

Coptic Cairo? I’d never heard of that before…

Early Christians whose religious beliefs predate the arrival of Islam to Egypt, the Copts have created a series of churches in their small stretch of Old Cairo that are unlike anything I’d seen before. Highly influenced by Moorish-style architecture, the remaining churches are not only incredibly unique, but filled with a rich history. Rumor has it that Jesus’ family hid out here while on the run. And rumor has it that this is where baby Moses was found floating in the river. So there’s quite a bit of religious significance here.

Stepping out of the handy Metro at Mar Girgis is like stepping into a small, closed off world. Often the subject of persecution, the Copts small section of this bustling metropolis is calm and peaceful, its street blocked to traffic by a police barricade implemented for their protection.

Coptic Cairo Street

With such impressive architecture, I couldn’t wait to see what was inside!

Church Entrance in Coptic Cairo

Wood Carving

Building at the Hanging Church

The Hanging Church

The most famous of the Coptic Churches is the Hanging Church, seat of the Coptic Pope and so named because it’s suspended over an ancient gatehouse.

The Hanging Church

A walk up the stairs leads to a beautiful courtyard, filled with murals, beautiful windows and fascinating light fixtures.

Window at the Hanging Church

Mural at the Hanging Church

Light Fixture

A walk through the inviting entryway to the sanctuary, complete with its very own Welcome mat is a step into a unique world of symbolism, soaring ceilings and beauty!

Hanging Church Door

Wall Detail at the Hanging Church

Pew Detail at the Hanging Church

Light Fixture at the Hanging Church

Ceiling at the Hanging Church

A quick glance out the window reminds us that there’s more to this world outside…

Looking Out a Window at the Hanging Church

The Church of St. George

From the Hanging Church, it’s really hard to miss the soaring dome of the nearby Church of St. George.

The Church of St George

Inside this mammoth exterior is a stunning Greek Orthodox interior.

Church of St George Interior

So there you have it! There are considerably more churches in Coptic Cairo, though photography is forbidden. The Church of St. Sergius supposedly marks the spot the Holy Family came to rest during their flight from King Herod and Ben Ezra Synagogue supposedly marks the spot where baby Moses was found.

If you do visit Cairo, I would highly suggest a visit to Coptic Cairo… It’s one of the few places in the world where you can experience this unique brand of Christianity and their spectacular and unique churches!

Sound Off!

Have you been to a Coptic Church before? What did you think?

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