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August 20th
2012

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THE CHURCH OF ABU SERGA (St. Sergius) - CAIRO - EGYPT


Cairo's oldest, the Church of Abu Serga (St. Sergius), near Mari Girgis Street, in Qasr el-Shama, Old Cairo, is a 4th Century church, dedicated to two early martyrs and supposedly built above the cave in which the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Christ, rested and took refuge at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress. However, the church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus, who were soldier-saints that were martyred during the 4th century in Syria by Maximilan.


Abu Serga church
The Church of Abu Serga (St. Sergius) - Old Cairo

Abu Serga church
Abu Serga (St. Sergius) Church marble Sign

The original building was probably done during the 5th century. It was burned during the fire of Fustat during the reign of Marwan II around 750. It was then restored during the 8th century, and has been rebuilt and restored constantly since medieval times, however it is still considered to be a model of the early Coptic churches.

The Church takes the shape of a basilica with a narthex, a nave, and 2 aisles, which are separated from the nave by 12 columns with Corinthian capitals, 10 of stone, one of marble and one of rosette granite. There are 3 Sanctuaries on the east side; each Sanctuary contains an altar, with a wooden dome, supported by 4 marble columns. The dome of each altar has religious scenes of Christ, Angels, and the 4 evangelists. There is a pulpit on the northeast side of the nave, which is made of marble, though originally it was made of wood, incrusted with ebony and ivory.

The pulpit is used once, each year, in the prayer of Great Friday. The central Sanctuary has a wooden screen, which dates back to the 13th Century, incrusted with panels of ebony and ivory. The frieze and the icons of the church are remarkable, most date back to the 15th and 16th Centuries, some were damaged and restored later.


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Interior of the Church of Abu Serga

Again, the most precious and ancient of the icons are on the southern wall. A vast central hall is divided into three naves by two rows of pilasters. In much the same style as the Hanging Church, Abu Serga has 12 unique columns decorated with paintings of the Apostles.


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Interior of the Church of Abu Serga - Entrance side

The ceiling of the church is made after the manner of the ark of Noah. This is symbolically made in many Coptic Orthodox churches, meaning that in the house of God we are saved from the world's troubles as those who were saved in the ark from the flood.

This church resembles religious structures in Constantinople and Rome.


Chapel
Iconostase of The Curch of Abu Serga

Chapel
Chapel of Abu Serga and Bakha

relics
The relics of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus are partly kept here in Abu Sarga and others are buried in Syria.

icon
Made in Sinai, St. Catherine's Monastery - St Sergius and St. Bacchus, 13th century Greek Orthodox icon

The main attraction, situated directly under the choir, is the crypt. This crypt contains the remains of the original church where tradition says the Holy Family lived. Originally this crypt, which is under the modern sanctuary, was itself the sanctuary of the church, but became the crypt after the larger church was built. It measures six meters long, by five meters wide and is 2.5 meters high. Within its north, south and east walls are niches. Sometime after the crypt was originally built, two rows of slender columns were erected to form a nave with two aisles. Being tied to the Holy Family, the Church of Abu Serga continues to be a draw for Christian visitors.

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Steps to the Crypt of the Church of Abu Serga - Plan of the crypt

The crypt has a nave and 2 aisles and the ceiling is domed. At the end of the southern aisle of the Cave, is a baptistery.

On the 1st of June, each year, the church of St. Sergio commemorates the arrival of the Holy Family by having prayers inside the church of the cave.


crypt
The Crypt of the Church of Abu Serga

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