Egypt's 'Hanging Church' officially inaugurated Saturday

Ahram Online, Saturday 11 Oct 2014

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Pope Towadros II of Alexandria opened the Hanging Church in Old Cairo today after 16 years of restoration at a budget of LE101 million

church's main hall

Within the framework of the antiquities ministry's effort to protect and preserve Egypt’s Coptic shrines, PM Ibrahim Mahlab and Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria will officially open today the Hanging Church in Old Cairo.

After 16 years of restoration, the Hanging Church, one of Egypt’s oldest churches, is finally to welcome worshippers and visitors.

The opening ceremony is to be attended by Cairo Governor Galal Saeed along with top governmental officials.

Antquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the restoration work of the church lasted for 16 years with a budget of LE101 million, returning the 4th century edifice to its original allure.

He explained that the restoration work was carried out in three phases to reduce water leakage and strengthen the church’s foundations and the Babylon fortress located beneath it, to protect them from potential future damage. The walls were reinforced, missing and decayed stones were replaced and masonry cleaned and desalinated. The decorations and icons of the church were also subject to fine restoration in collaboration with Russian experts. New lighting and ventilation systems have also been installed.

Located in a heavily populated area, says Wadallah Mohamed, assistant of the head of the projects section at the ministry, the Hanging Church was suffering from environmental hazards including air pollution, a high subsoil water level, a high rate of humidity, and leakage of water from the outdated and a decayed 100-year-old sewage system. Other damage included decorations of the church’s wooden ceiling being stained with smoke and the impact of the 1992 earthquake, which resulted in cracks in the church’s walls and foundations.

“The church is now safe and sound and its restoration was carried out according to the latest technology,” asserted Mohamed.

Nashwa Gaber, general director of the technical office at the ministry, said that the Hanging Church is the first church to be built in Egypt in Basilican style. It was built on top of a Babylonian fortress. Important religious ceremonies, continued Gaber, were held there and in the 7th century it became the first seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria in Cairo. It was also a court for breakers of church rituals and laws.

The church is located in Old Cairo in an area called Mogamaa Al-Adian (or "religious compound" in Arabic), which includes the Amr Ibn Al-Ass Mosque, Ben Ezra Synagogue and a collection of churches.

The church
The church's entrance

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