Cairo Churches: St. Barbara's Church

St. Barbara's Church (Sitt Barbara)

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Saint Barbara's Church (Sitt Barbara) was originally constructed between the 4th and 5th centuries. Legend says that Barbara was the daughter of a pagan merchant. She was converted to Christianity during the 3rd century and spread the gospel with her friend Juliana. She tried to convert her father to Christianity and for this he tried to have her killed. He failed at his own attempts and so turned her over to Nicodemia who was the Roman governor. He had the two friends tortured and then murdered. For this, the church which was dedicated to St. Cyrus and St. John, is now known as the Church of Saint Barbara. The chapel still contains her remains.

St. Barbara's Church

This church was built at the beginning of the Islamic era on the eastern side of the fort. The church burned during the Fustat fire of 750 but was restored during the 11th century. For a long period it was not maintained until, during the Fatimid period, the church was rebuilt and decorated with attractive inscriptions. The church is designed on the basilican form, but the decorations that once lined the interior, have been lost. However, there remains some remarkable wood paneling, some of which is in the Coptic Museum. There are ancient chapels in the north wing that are dedicated to Cyrus and John. There is a convent which comprises several buildings, including a school built by the well known architect, Ramesses Wissa Wassef. During the 15th century, this church was described as the most beautiful as well as the largest church of the time.

Check out our Feature Article about St. Barbara's Church

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Last Updated: July 5th, 2011