The Journey of the Holy Family

The Journey of the Holy Family

HE Dr. Khaled El Enany, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, inspected the project to develop the area surrounding the religious complex in Old Cairo. He also visited the Hanging Church, the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (also called Abu Serga), and the Church of the Virgin Mary in Maadi. The Holy Family stopped at the future site of these churches during their journey in Egypt.

          The Journey of the Holy Family project is a national one, conducted by the tourism sector. The project will lead to further developments that will benefit the communities that live along the route of the Journey of the Holy Family.

          The Holy Family stopped at twenty‑five points over the course of their 3500‑meter journey from Asyut to Sinai. Each station is the site of monuments such as churches, monasteries, wells, and Coptic icons. These are considered indicators of the path of the Journey of the Holy Family by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

          The Holy Family first came through Rafah in the north‑east of Egypt, passing through Tell al‑Farama, east of Port Said. They then reached Kafr al-Sheikh in the Delta and passed through Tell Basta in al‑Sharqiyyah and Samannud in al‑Gharbiyyah. They moved to Wadi al‑Natrun in the Western Desert, where the Monasteries of Anba Bishoy, Virgin Mary, al‑Surian (the Monastery of the Syrians), Paramus, and St. Abu Maqqar would eventually be founded.

          Their journey then took them to Musturad and Matariya, where the Tree of the Virgin Mary is located. From their they moved to the Zuwayla Church in Fatimid Cairo, passing through near the future site of the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in what is today the religious complex in Old Cairo. They then went to Maadi, where they crossed the Nile. It is on this part of the Nile that a page from the Bible appeared on the surface of the water containing the famous phrase, “blessed are the people of Egypt.” They arrived in Gebel al‑Tayr in al‑Minya, then proceeded to Asyut, where al‑Muharraq Monastery is located. The first church built by Jesus Christ Himself is also located there. The Holy Family then stayed in the Doronka cave, and from there returned to Bethlehem.

          The Hanging Church was built towards the end of the fourth century, and became the seat of the papacy in the eleventh century. It was called the “Hanging Church” because it was built between two of the towers of the old Roman fort known as Babylon, elevated 13 meters above the ground. In the Medieval period it was known as the “Church of the Stairs,” and was also referred to as the “Column Church.”

          The Church of Sergius and Bacchus was built in the basilical style, composed of a tripartite court, each section divided by marble decorated columns. It is the site of the cave in which the Holy Family sought refuge during their Journey through Egypt.

          The Church of Virgin Mary in Maadi marks the site from which the Holy Family crossed the Nile to Mit Rahina, and from there traveled to Upper Egypt.