The history of ancient Egypt is rich without limits created for thousands of years to hold the most incredible collections of artifacts from different ages and cultures. The history of Christianity in Egypt dates very far as the holy family of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus crossed Egypt seeking refugee from the mad King Herod. Christianity is said to have entered Egypt by the Apostle Saint Mark after the death of Jesus. Christianity spread quickly in Egypt after the fall of the roman empire and became the new official religion for 400 years from the 3rd AD to 7th AD, Egypt was the center and hub for the Coptic culture.
Across the route which the holy family took, a church was built. The Egyptians accepted the religion for its similarities with the ancient Egyptian dogma and concepts like afterlife, resurrection, and even the symbol of Christianity the cross was very similar to the Egyptian Ankh. The old city of Cairo became the center of various churches and a true example of Christian architecture from the beginning of the 5th century till today which had a vital role in role in the formation of Egypt.
Top Christian Monuments and Monasteries in Egypt
Egypt tourism centers around pharaonic history and culture like the ancient deities, the afterlife, the celestial pharaohs across all the major cities like Luxor & Aswan and for the current dominant religion Islam where the city of Cairo is filled with countless enchanting mosques and Islamic monuments but what most travelers maybe not be aware off is Christian religion had a huge impact on Egypt thousands of years ago where it transformed and adapted over the centuries and played a huge role in shaping the landscape of the entire country. Here are the top 8 Christian monuments and monasteries in Egypt:
1. The Hanging Church
All historians agree that the Hanging church a.k.a the Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church is the true embodiment of the entire Coptic era. It is the oldest and most important church in Cairo famous for its abnormal position as it was built on top of a gatehouse of a 4th century BC of the southern wall of the Roman fortress of Babylon and its hanging appearance id because its nave is suspended over the passage. It was designed to serve as the official residence of the Coptic Orthodox Pope in 1047 and the operating center of the Coptic patriarch and it was the center for general elections & religious ceremonies across the years.
2. Abu Serga Church
The Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church a.k.a Abu Serga Church is one of the oldest churches in the world as it was constructed in the 5th or the 8th century inside the ancient Roman fort of Babylon near the hanging church. This church was built on the place the holy family stayed in while on the run from Herod and to honor two Martyrs named Sergius and Bacchus who were Roman officers after the discovery that both of them were secret Christians.
3. The Church of Saint George
The church was built in the 10th century by the 20th Orthodox bishop of Alexandria called Athanasius, on the northern tower of the fortress of Babylon but was destroyed by a massive fire completely then a new church was built between 1904 and 1909 on top of an ancient Roman tower on the same location. The church is dedicated to Saint George who was a Palestinian conscript in the Roman army and was executed in 303 AD by Emperor Diocletian for practicing Christianity.
4. Saint Catherine Monastery
The saint Catherine monastery is a greek orthodox monastery also known as the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai and the Monastery of the Transfiguration plus it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on Mount Sinai at an altitude of 1500 m (5000 ft) above sea level within a narrow valley just north of mount Musa in the Sinai Peninsula. It was built in 527 AD by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I around the site where mosses have seen the burning bush. St. Catherine of Alexandria was is a 3rd-century martyr who was tortured to death by her father for succeeding in converting 50 of his followers to Christianity in 307 AD so the monastery was built in her honor and memory. The monastery is the home to the oldest operating library in the world which is the home to a collection of 4,500 manuscripts and codices like the Syriac Sinaiticus, which pre-dates the Codex Sinaiticus and was crucial in fully understanding the history of the New Testament.
5. Monastery of Saint Anthony
The monastery of Saint Anthony is a unique holy site located within an oasis in the eastern Sahara at the front of Khelsm Mountain that looks over the Red Sea near Hurghada where it is believed to be located where St. Anthony once lived inside a cave as a monk. It was constructed in 356 AD by Saint Anthony followers who were the first Christian saint and the first to establish a monastic community in the Coptic age of Egypt. It is one of the oldest and still standing monasteries in the world. It is filled with many chapels, churches, and constructions like a bakery and possesses more than 1700 documents in the library and many artifacts like old paintings dating to the 7th, 8th, and 13th centuries.
6. Monastery of Saint Paul
The monastery of Saint Paul known as “Deir Mar Boulos” is a Coptic Orthodox facility built in the 5th century dedicated to the hermit St. Paul of Thebes. It is built in the shape of a fortress to protect it from continuous raids. It lies in the eastern desert of Egypt near the red sea mountains about 155 km (96 mi) southeast of Cairo. Paul lived alone in a cave for more than 90 years where he became a hermit in the eastern desert, in AD 343 the 90-year-old Anthony searched for paul and they became friends until paul’s death.
7. Wadi el-Natroun
Wadi el-Natroun a.k.a Scetis is one of the only remaining Christian monastic centers a valley located about 62 miles from Cairo. In ancient Egypt, it was important as it was full of the carbonated sodium needed for the performance of the mummification process. It was also very vital for the Romans, who found the area to also be a source of silica which they used for creating glass. However, while this wadi was full of resources, it had another use which is a safe haven for all the fleeing Christians from Roman persecution.
At one point, Wadi el-Natroun was full of monasteries that fell victim to the effects of time, climate, and Bedouin raids. four monasteries only exist and can be seen today;
- The Monastery of El-Suryan
- The Monastery of Abu Makar
- The Monastery of Baramus
- The Monastery of Anba Bishoy
8. Abu Mena
The Abu Mena is a UNESCO heritage site, a monetary complex, and a Christian pilgrimage center that came to be in the late 3rd century AD. It is located 50 km (31 mi) southwest of Alexandria and most of the original structure has disappeared over time, the major buildings like the great basilica are still very visible. The monastery was put on the list of endangered world heritage in 2001 and inducted as a world heritage site in 1979.
Across Egypt, especially the streets of Cairo are a number of incredible Christian monuments and monasteries in Egypt that every traveler can still discover today through booking one of our Egypt vacation packages. Don’t miss the chance and book us now.