CHURCH OF ST. MERCURIUS (ABU SAYFAYN)
The church is one of Egypt’s most significant churches and is the largest church in Old Cairo. It was probably erected in the sixth century, and thus it is the only surviving church in Cairo that could have been founded before the Arab conquest of Egypt. Patriarch Abraham (975-978) rebuilt the church since it had been partly demolished.
In 1080, 47 bishops assembled there to establish the ecclesiastical canons to be adopted by the Copts. The church was pillaged and burned by the fanatic mobs in 1168 and was rebuilt in 1174-1175. A number of patriarchs resided in the Church of Abu Sayfayn in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 16th and 18th centuries, some patriarchs were consecrated in that church, and many were buried there. The church’s central sanctuary is imposing. Its unique medieval wooden screen features elaborately carved cruciform ivory plaques.
The church is rich in wall paintings representing saints as well as Old and New Testaments scenes; some of them are rare, such as the Transfiguration, which may date to the 12th century. It is also famous for its remarkable collection of icons, especially the medieval icons of the 13th and 14th centuries.