St. Cyril Melkite Catholic Church (HELIOPOLIS)
THE CHURCH OF ST. CYRIL is located on al-Thawra Street, Corba, Heliopolis, Cairo. The church is dedicated to St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria (412-444), who is considered one of the greatest figures of early Christianity because he defended the title of the Virgin Mary, “Mother of God,” against Nestorius. The church was built in the early twentieth century to meet the needs of a growing suburban population of Greek Catholic elites. Originally from Syria and Lebanon, these Catholics moved to Heliopolis from the Cairo districts of Faggala and Shubra.
Habib Ayrouth drew the architectural plan of the church’s Byzantine style in 1910. Baron Edouard Empain (1852-1919), who founded the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oasis Company in 1904, donated six brown marble columns from Antwerp, Belgium, that still decorate the church’s entrance. The church was consecrated by Patriarch Cyril VIII Moghabghab and the Latin Apostolic Nuncio Mgr. Deiry on June 8, 1912.
In 1945 the church erected a large wooden icon of Christ that was surrounded by icons of the apostles. At this time four chandeliers made of wrought iron were hung from the ceiling. In 1983 the church was restored and renovated.
The church also includes two modern icons that are modeled on two famous images from the Monastery of St. Catherine. The first icon imitates the famous twelfth-century icon of the ‘Heavenly Ladder’ of St. John Climacus from the Monastery of St. Catherine. It shows a ladder of thirty rungs symbolizing the thirty virtues that a monk should acquire. As the faithful seek to climb the ladder, devils pull them from their ascent. Saint John Climacus, the great abbot of the Monastery of St. Catherine, reaches heaven first, followed by Antuniyus, the first bishop of Sinai. Another modern icon depicts the Transfiguration, which is reminiscent of the magnificent sixth-century Transfiguration mosaic of Sinai. It shows Christ at the Transfiguration flanked by the prophets Moses and Elijah while the apostles Peter, John, and James prostrate themselves before him.