The Church of the Holy Virgin is known as al-Mo‘allaqa, “the Suspended One,” because it was built upon the south gate of the Babylon fortress in Old Cairo. It is the most famous ancient church in Cairo.
The church was erected after the Arab conquest of Egypt (640-642). We know from the biography of Patriarch Joseph (Yusab I, 830-849) that the governor of Egypt ordered the demolition of its upper section down to the columns. From the 11th to the beginning of the 14th century, the Coptic patriarchs resided in Old Cairo at al-Mo‘allaqa or at the Church of Abu Sayfayn.
During that period, many patriarchs were elected, consecrated, or enthroned at al-Mo‘allaqa, and the holy chrism (sacred oil) was consecrated several time there. A number of synods were held there as well. Abu al-Barakat ibn Kabar, a celebrated Coptic scholar, was a priest at that church.
The church has been restored several times over the centuries. Al-Mo‘allaqa is also significant for its artistic heritage, such as magnificent medieval wooden altar screens that are decorated with fine geometric designs and inlaid with small pieces of ebony and ivory, a beautiful 13th- or 14th-century wall painting of the Nativity, a 14th-century icon of St. Mark, and many other 18th- and 19th-century icons.
A number of Coptic artifacts were transferred from al-Mo‘allaqa to the British Museum and the Coptic Museum.