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 is traditionally believed to have been built where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress.
The church is of significant historical importance, and in fact, it is where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected. Patriarch Isaac was the first to be selected (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. Many bishops of the See were consecrated in 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 and, when Nile levels are high, is often flooded. The most exciting feature is the crypt where Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus have rested.
The church was built in the 4th century, and the Copts probably finished during the 5th century. Unfortunately, it was burned during the fire of Fustat during the reign of Marwan II around 750. It was restored during the 8th century and has been rebuilt and restored constantly since medieval times; however, it is still considered 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 f 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 due to that patriarch’s wish to be consecrated in the latter. This ceremony traditionally took place at Saints Sergius and Bacchus.