Religious Sites in Egypt

Many religious location have complicated histories. These sites reflect the varied history and adaptive nature of changing cultural and religious practices in Egypt's history.

American Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

By Oliver Potts and Arly Ramundo Gonzalez

View of Abu Hajjaj Mosque (2011-03-16)American Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Abu’l Hajjaj Mosque

The Abu’l Hajjaj Mosque exists within the Luxor Temple complex, a place of religious worship dating back to the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the 14th Century BC. A Coptic Church was built in this part of the complex but was built over and is currently a working mosque.

Hanging Church, Cairo (2004-10) by Przemyslaw "Blueshade" IdzkiewiczAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Saint Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church

Saint Mary's Church in Cairo, known as Al-Mo'allaqa or the Hanging Church, is one of Egypt's oldest Christian religious sites. The church dates back to at least the 7th-9th Century. At one point, it was damaged in a large fire but was later re-established as a church.

Monastery of Al-Muharraq (2014-11-01) by Tour Mana AliAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Monastery of Al-Muharraq

The Monastery of Al-Muharraq is another example of a Coptic church with a tumultuous history. It is considered one of the most sacred of the Holy Family pilgrimage sites.

The complex houses three churches, including Egypt’s first church, and was built in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Parts of the complex were damaged in political riots in 2013.

Saint Catherine's Monastery (2010-11-09) by Berthold WernerAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Saint Catherine's Monastery

Saint Catherine’s is a Christian monastery. The monastery’s location has a special meaning since this is where people believe Moses saw the burning bush.

The mountain, “Jebel Musa,” is said to be where Moses was gifted the Ten Commandments, making the location a holy site to all Abrahamic traditions.

The Monastery of Saint Simon the Tanner

This monastery is one of the largest and most unique in Egypt. Located in Cairo, many Christians make a pilgrimage to visit this site.

There are several churches within the monastery, including the huge Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Mary and St. Simon the Tanner, and a series of caves, including the two churches of St. Paul and Bishop Abraham.

The Holy Family (La sagrada familia) (second half of 17th century) by Nicolás Rodríguez JuárezLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Abu Serga)

In the Christian tradition, the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary, and the infant Christ) fled from Palestine to Egypt, seeking refuge from the persecution of the Jewish king Herod. In Egypt, the Holy Family was forced to live a nomadic lifestyle. 

Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) in Cairo, Egypt (2019-10-16) by Olaf TauschAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

During their stay in Old Cairo, the family took refuge in a crypt beneath the church’s sanctuary. The Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus was built on the site, which gets its name from two soldier saints who were martyred in Syria in the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximinus.

Saints Sergius and BacchusAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

According to their hagiography, Sergius and Bacchus were high-ranking Roman officers in Syria during the reign of the emperor Galerius (305-311 AD). The two were exposed as secret Christians when they attempted to avoid participating in a Pagan ritual with other Roman officials. 

The pair were put on trial and instructed to give up their faith. They refused and were tortured and martyred. The soldiers became popular symbols of the Christian faith, and many churches have been named for them. Their story of devotion made them appropriate namesakes for the Abu Serga church. Like the Virgin Mary, keeping the spark of the Christian faith alive even when cast into the wilderness, Sergius and Bacchus refused to forsake their religion in the face of overwhelming opposition. 

red monastery (2021-03-11) by Ghada EmishAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The Red Monastery

The Red Monastery was created as a sanctuary for Christians who wanted to renounce the world and devote themselves to God. The monastery is a two-story building in the form of a church and a basilica.

Red Monastery Wall Paintings (2009-04-16) by Kenneth GarrettAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The basilica's design is a mixture of Egyptian Roman and early Coptic architecture, and it houses some of the best surviving and most remarkable early Byzantine paintings.

Credits: Story

This story was created as part of ARCE's Archive Digitization & Publication Project, funded by the US Department of Education. Text and story by Oliver Potts and Arly Ramundo Gonzalez, students at  Northern Virginia Community College (Alexandria Campus), in the course Art 101 - History and Appreciation of Art 1, taught by Sarah Liberatore.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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