THE CHURCH OF ST. MERCURIUS (Abu Sayfayn) stands at the center of the city of Akhmim near the police station. Its floor is about three meters below the level of the street. The design of the church follows the domed-hall type that began to appear in the fourteenth century. Thus, it belongs typologically to the last phase of development in Egyptian church building.
The current church dates to the sixteenth or seventeenth century. It was originally five bays wide and three rooms deep: the eastern part comprises three semi-circular sanctuaries flanked by two rectangular rooms with two bays in front of each sanctuary and room. The northern comer room and the northern two bays do not exist because an adjoining church was built in their place. The two bays in front of the central sanctuary are covered by domes on squinches surmounted by windows. The church’s columns, arches, and domes are built of baked bricks, which are painted dark red in cross patterns.
The wooden screens of the sanctuaries are decorated with crosses and geometrical designs. Nineteenth-century wooden ciboria (baldachins) supported by four pillars are erected above the altar in each of the three sanctuaries. The ciboria are ornamented with scenes of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and angels.