Church of Abu Serga & Bacchus, the Arabic name for St. Sergius, is in the historic part of Cairo, also called “Coptic Cairo” This is a part of Cairo, Egypt, built before the Fatimid dynasty, and Cairo was built in the year 969 AD.
Abu Serga is one of the city’s oldest churches, and it was built in the 5th century, but some historians say it was built in the 8th century B.C. Most people think the building looks like the Hanging Church, but the Basilica of San Sergio has two colonnades separating the aisles from the central hall.
Construction of the Church of St Sergius & Bacchus
The Church of St Sergius & Bacchus was built to honor two people who died for their beliefs: Sergius and Bacchus. The two saints were two high-ranking Christian soldiers in the Roman army stationed in the East. In Syria in the fourth century, they were tortured and humiliated so severely that they died.
The two had a lot of power at the court of Maximinus Data, who had been the tetrarch of the East since 305. Jealous people said terrible things about them, and when they refused to sacrifice Jupiter, they were killed.
Tradition says that the Holy Family would rest there at the end of their trip to Egypt, where the Church was built. On the Gregorian calendar, this event happens on June 1, the 24th day of the Coptic month, “Bachons.”
On the anniversary of the Holy Family’s trip to Egypt, the Coptic Church holds a mass at this old place of worship to honor the event.
What happened to the Church?
The Church was destroyed during the fire in Fustat around the year 750 during the rule of Marwan II. It was built again and fixed up as early as the 8th century, during the Middle Ages.
Two rows of pilasters divide the inside into three naves, and each aisle is separated from the central nave by two rows of six columns. At the same time, the pulpit has been replaced with a copy of the one in the Church of St. Barbara, one of the oldest. The original wooden pulpit is now kept in the Coptic Museum of Cairo and Old Cairo in Mar Girgis.
People think Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus Christ stopped here at the end of their journey to Egypt to rest, and they might have lived here while Joseph worked at the nearby Babylonian fortress.
The Historical value of the Church of St Sergius & Bacchus
Given the Church’s age, it has a lot of historical significance. It is considered a model for the first Coptic churches, and many patriarchs have been elected there over the years.
Isaac was the first person to be chosen here (681-692). It is the Church of the bishop of Cairo, and it used to be the bishop’s seat for the Old Cairo district, and it took the place of the chair of Babylon. Before Patriarch Christodulus took over, this Church was where many bishops of the See were made (1047-1077).
The most exciting part is the crypt, where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are said to have slept. When the water level in the Nile rises, the tomb, which is 10 meters deep, is often submerged. On the southern wall are the most loved and oldest icons.
After the Arab invasion of Egypt in the 11th century A.D., the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria, who had always been based in Alexandria, was moved to Cairo. At the same time, the ruling powers also moved from Alexandria to Cairo.
During Pope Christodolos’s time in office, Cairo became the official and permanent home of the Coptic pope. His seat was in the suspended Church (Kanisa el Muwallaqa or Hanging Church).
The Church of Saints Sergius, Bacchus, and the Suspended Church compete with each other (El Muwallaqa). Because Patriarch Christodoulou wanted to be consecrated in the Suspended Church, this kind of competition started. At the same time, the ceremony itself was usually held in the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.