Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, the Church of Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in The Cave, also known as Abu Serga, in Coptic Cairo is one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century.
Location of Abu Serga Church
Importance of Abu Serga Church
Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church was traditionally built where the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ) rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. The Holy Family may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress.
The church is of significant historical importance. Historically, it was the place where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected. For example, Patriarch Isaac was the first to be selected for this position(681-692). It is the episcopal church of Cairo, and it was the episcopal See of Masr (the district of Old Cairo) that replaced the former See of Babylon. The Coptic Church consecrated many bishops of the See to the church until Patriarch Christodulus (1047–1077).
Copts dedicated the church to Sergius and Bacchus. They were soldier-saints, martyred during the 4th century in Syria by the Roman Emperor Maximian. The burial is 10 meters deep; however, when Nile levels were high, the water overflowed it. The most exciting feature is the crypt where Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus have rested.
The Copts built the church in the 4th century, and they probably finished during the 5th century. Unfortunately, the fire of Fustat came on it during the reign of Marwan II around 750 AD. However, the Copts restored it during the 8th century, and they rebuilt and restored it constantly since medieval times; however, it is still a model of the early Coptic churches. Again, the most precious and ancient of the icons are on the southern wall. A vast central hall comprises three naves by two rows of pilasters.
By the 11th century AD, the orthodox church moved the Seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria to Cairo. However, the Seat of the Pope was historically based in Alexandria, Egypt. The reason was that the ruling powers moved away from Alexandria to Cairo after the Arab invasion of Egypt. During Pope Christodolos’s tenure, Cairo became the fixed and official residence of the Coptic Pope. This residence was at the Hanging Church in Cairo in 1047.
Infighting between the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus and the Hanging Church broke out because the patriarch with the Coptic Church would consecrate him in the latter. This ceremony traditionally took place at Saints Sergius and Bacchus.