Anba Ruways (ABBASIYA)
THE MOST IMPORTANT CONTEMPORARY COPTIC CENTER in Egypt, known as Anba Ruways, is located on Ramses street in Abbasiya. It is a compound of buildings with an enclosure wall comprising the Cathedral of St. Mark and his shrine, the Church of Anba Ruways, the Coptic papal residence, the Clerical College, the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies, the new cultural center with the library, and a number of episcopal and patriarchal offices.
In 970 a monastery (Dayr al-Khandaq) was founded there on an extensive area. It included a cemetery, which was mentioned by the historian al-Maqrizi (d. 1442). In the early thirteenth century the church historian Abu al-Makarim/Abu Salih stated that the monastery included eight churches. One of them, the Church of St. George, was later transformed into the Church of Anba Ruways.
The Chapel of St. Athanasius
ATHANASIUS (326-373) IS UNDOUBTEDLY the most important Coptic patriarch. He is considered an apostolic saint and played a crucial role in the theological controversies in the fourth century. He wrote a biography entitled the Life of St. Antony that significantly influenced monasticism in the West.
On May 6,1973, Pope Shenouda III received the relics of St. Athanasius from Pope Paul VI in Rome. His relics repose in his chapel under the cathedral, which lies to the west of the two churches of the Holy Virgin and Anba Ruways and the Holy Virgin and St. Pshoi. There is an altar in the chapel with an apse decorated with the portrait of St. Athanasius. The ceiling is decorated with a scene of Christ and the Four Living Creatures.
The Cathedral of St. Mark
THE COPTIC CATHEDRAL OF ST. MARK in Cairo is the only Christian house of God to have been financed by the Egyptian government. President Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser laid its foundation stone on July 24, 1965. On July 26, 1968, Patriarch Cyril VI (1959-1971) and the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I inaugurated the cathedral on the occasion of the translation of the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist from Venice to Cairo and the 1900th anniversary of his martyrdom. In 828 Venetian pirates stole the body of St. Mark from Alexandria and carried it to their city. The Venetians built the huge Cathedral of St. Mark and henceforth their commune was named the Republic of St. Mark.
The Cairo cathedral is an imposing structure 100 meters long, 36 meters wide, and 55 meters high. The belfry is 85 meters high. The huge vault is supported by two rows of six graceful pillars of Egyptian alabaster surmounted by two-zone basket-shaped capitals. The lower section of the capitals resembles a flat wicker basket executed in sharp relief. The comers of the capitals’ upper sections are decorated with the heads of lions—the symbol of St. Mark—and the intervening spaces are filled with wreathed crosses. The huge vault of the cathedral features beautiful windows decorated with colored stained glass representing biblical scenes and saints. The southern windows represent from left to right: the Flight into Egypt, St. Mark the apostle, St. Antony, and St. Athanasius the Apostolic; northern side from right to left: the Good Shepherd, the Archangel Michael, St. George, and St. Dimyana surrounded by her forty virgins.
In the eastern part of the church stand three sanctuaries dedicated to St. Mark (center), St. Menas (north), and the Virgin Mary (south). The door of the central sanctuary is surmounted by an icon of the Last Supper, on which there is on which the crucifixion also appears, flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John. On both sides there are six icons representing the twelve apostles. The door of the northern sanctuary is surmounted by two icons depicting the Flight into Egypt and the Magi. The two icons above the door of the southern sanctuary show the Nativity; one of them also depicts the shepherds. All the icons are painted by Budur Latif and Youssef Nassif. The Russian Orthodox Church presented the magnificent altar of the central sanctuary. It is of gilded metal with blue and white crosses, and features the Last Supper, the Passion of Christ, the Entombment, and Gethsemane.
The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary and St. Pshoi
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY AND ST. PSHOI lies to the west of the shrine of St. Mark in the ground floor beneath the Cathedral of St. Mark. Of special interest are two large modem mosaics on the two pillars in front of the sanctuary. They represent the Holy Virgin standing and holding the Christ Child, and St. Pshoi carrying Christ on his shoulder. The central sanctuary is dedicated to the Virgin and St. Pshoi; the northern sanctuary to St. Menas, and the southern to St. Michael. The wooden screen of the sanctuary shows nineteenth-century icons executed in Italo-Byzantine style. On the top there is an icon of the Last Supper. The central apse is decorated with the scene of Christ Pantocrator.
The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary and Anba Ruways
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY VIRGIN MARY AND ANBA RUWAYS lies to the west of the shrine of St. Mark on the ground floor beneath the Cathedral of St. Mark. Its wooden screen is decorated with modern icons representing the Last Supper, the apostles, a number of church fathers, and doctor-saints, as well as great figures of Coptic monasticism such as St. Moses the Black and St. Pachomius. Its apse features Christ Pantocrator and a beautiful stained glass icon representing the Virgin and Child and St. Pshoi carrying Christ on his shoulder. Above the church’s entrance there is a large icon of the Flight into Egypt. All the icons are painted by Budur Latif and Youssef Nassif.
The Church of Anba Ruways
THE CHURCH LIES BETWEEN THE PAPAL RESIDENCE and the cathedral. It is named after its patron Anba Ruways (ca.1334-1404). His original name was Ishaq Furayg. From his youth he devoted himself to a life of asceticism and prayer. He was called the man of miracles, and it is said that he had the power of healing the sick and predicting the future .
The church features three sanctuaries, which are covered by three beehive-shaped domes. A single wooden screen serves for the three sanctuaries. Above the door of the central sanctuary there is a large cross with the Crucifixion on its western face and the Resurrection on its eastern face. It is flanked by the icons of St. John and the women at Christ’s tomb. The screen is surmounted by icons of the The Church of Anba Ruways. Interior view: entrance and twelve apostles, the Archangel Michael, and St. Apoli. The southern sanctuary serves as a shrine. Eight steps lead down from the northern sanctuary to the crypt with the tomb of Anba
wooden screen of the sanctuaries.
Ruways and his companion St. Suleiman. In the crypt are also buried the patriarchs Matthew I (1378-1409), John XI (1427-1452), Matthew D (1452-1465), and Gabriel VI (1466-1475).
The Shrine of St. Mark
WITH THE PROGRESS OF THE GROWING RELATIONSHIP between the churches of Rome and Alexandria in modem times, the Catholic papacy decided to return the relics of St. Mark in Venice to the Coptic Church in Egypt. The Shrine of St. Mark lies in the eastern part of the ground floor of the building of the Cathedral of St. Mark; the first floor of the building houses the cathedral, while there is a number of churches, including the shrine on the ground floor. The relics of the saint were transferred from Venice on July 26, 1968. In 1969 the famous Coptic artist Isaac Fanous, assisted by Mansur Farag, painted the walls of the shrine that houses the relics. St. Mark is depicted standing with the lion flanked by two scenes, which are very instructive. To his left is the martyrdom of the great saint. He is shown being dragged by the mobs over the cobbled roads of Alexandria. The angel of the Lord appears to him carrying the crown of martyrdom. The landscape shows Pharos or the lighthouse (right) and the temple of Serapis or the Serapeum (left). To the right of the saint is the other scene that depicts the translation of his relic. It shows three Coptic priests carrying the bier in which lies the wrapped body of the haloed saint. Behind his head are twenty-two representatives of the Church of Ethiopia, the Roman Catholic Church, the Coptic Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Greek and Armenian churches, and the World Council of Churches. On the other side are Pope Cyril VI and Pope Paul VI followed by the clergy, the nuns, and the faithful communities. On the top appears the Holy Spirit flanked by the Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo and his cathedral in Venice. The four angels Suryal, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael are also represented. The stained glass of the shrine’s windows is indeed attractive; of particular note are the three windows that depict Christ in Majesty flanked by the Flight into Egypt and St. Mark the Evangelist.
Mark: Stained-glass windows depicting Christ flanked by the Flight into Egypt and St. Mark the Evangelist.