A signature sight of Coptic Cairo, the Church of St. Barbara stands close to the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church. Its history may date back to the fourth century, although it’s been extensively reworked over time. Coptic Christians believe the chapel houses the relics of St. Barbara, martyred by her father in the city of Heliopolis.The Basics
There’s no charge to enter the Church of St. Barbara, although donations are welcome. Visit on a walking tour of Coptic Cairo, a Cairo churches tour, or an Old Cairo tour; the church is a stone’s throw from the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, and the Hanging Church. Some Old Cairo day tours include Islamic landmarks such as the Citadel of Saladin, the Khan al-Khalili bazaar, and the Alabaster Mosque, while others fit in a visit to the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square.Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- The Church of St. Barbara will be of interest to history buffs and icon fans.
- Be sure to visit the Coptic Museum, which holds a number of treasures from the church.
- Don’t miss the Coptic Cemetery behind the church.
- The Church of St. Barbara is not wheelchair-accessible.
The Church of St. Barbara is located in Coptic Cairo, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) south of Tahrir Square, among sights such as the Coptic Museum, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Church of St. George, the Hanging Church, and the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church. Coptic Cairo is refreshingly easy to reach by public transport: Catch the metro to Mar Girgis (line 1).When to Get There
The Church of St. Barbara is open from morning to afternoon, seven days a week, and is rarely crowded. Mass is held on Sundays, while other Coptic Christian rituals are also observed: The priest washes the feet of parishioners on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Coptic Orthodox Easter).
The Copts and Coptic Cairo
Cairo is only a short distance from the Holy Land, and Christianity has a long history here. Egypt’s Coptic Christians trace their heritage back to St. Mark, whom they believe arrived in Alexandria during the first century AD. The church split from the Roman and Byzantine churches during the fourth century AD, and local Copts built their community around the Babylon Fortress, an area known today as Coptic Cairo.