A maqsurah is a secondary side room off the sanctuary in some modern Coptic churches; it is frequently linked with the sanctuary by an opening like a window in the wall. Functionally it serves as a special prayer room for women and is therefore always adorned with a representation of the Virgin, in addition to numerous other icons. Furthermore, through the wall opening mentioned, the room can also be used for the receiving of communion.
Genetically the maqsurah is probably derived from the governor’s box of the same name beside the mihrab in the mosque. It was introduced there at the beginning of the Umayyad period, as a precaution against attacks upon the governor. There are early examples from Cairo in the al- Azhar mosque, built in A.D. 971 (Maqrizi, 1970, Vol. 1, p. 465), and in the Ibn Tulun mosque (Maqrizi, Vol. 1, p. 466). How far there are links with corresponding structures in Byzantine architecture is so far not clear.
- Diez, E. “Maqsura.” In Enzyklopedia des Islam, Vol. 3, pp. 394-95. Leiden, 1936.