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The Hanging Church

The most famous Coptic church in Cairo, the Hanging Church, is known in Arabic as al-Muallaqah (The Suspended). The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is also known as Sitt Mariam or St. Mary's Church.

The Hanging Church is named as such because it was built above a gatehouse of the Roman fortress in Old Cairo, with its nave suspended over a passage. The Church was built in the 7th century and has been rebuilt several times since then, including a major rebuild in the 10th century.

Entrance to the Hanging Church is via a beautifully-decorated gate on Shar'a Mari Girgis Street. This leads you into an open courtyard, you then have to climb 29 steps to get to the church. At the top of the stairs are three decorated wooden doors, framed by beautiful carvings in the stone wall.

Inside, the Hanging Church is still one of the most impressive churches in the city, remarkable for its marble pulpit, inlaid screens, icons and murals. The 11th-century marble pulpit has 13 graceful pillars, representing Jesus and the 12 disciples. In the baptistery, a panel has been cut out of the floor to reveal the Water Gate below.

Still in use, the church is crowded with both tourists and parishioners who come to pray over a collection of saints’ relics and an icon of Mary.