The Church of Sts. Sergius & Bacchus is believed to be the oldest church in Cairo and one of the oldest in Egypt. According to tradition, it stands upon the site where Mary, Joseph and the Infant Jesus resided while in exile in Egypt. It is also one of Christianity’s most sacred shrines in Egypt. Named for Sergius and Bacchus, two soldiers who served in the Roman army and who were martyred in 303 AD for secretly practicing Christianity, this church was also the location where most of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected between the 7th and 10th centuries. But despite these honors, it is the tradition of its role in the Nativity that is this church’s main draw.
The first church to stand on this site was constructed sometime in the 5th century, but was destroyed in the year 750 AD when most of the city was razed by a terrible fire. It was rebuilt soon afterwards. While some elements of the current church date from this period, much of the structure has been rebuilt and restored on numerous occasions. Nevertheless it is believed that the original Byzantine style layout has been more-or-less preserved. Although relatively large at the time of its construction, the current Church of St. Sergius is fairly compact by today’s standards and occupies only a small area.
Because of its size and because it is closely hemmed in by narrow surrounding streets and alleyways, it is difficult to take in the church’s medieval exterior, so most visitors head straight inside to the shrine. There are separate entrances to the church above and the crypt below. The small church interior is well-preserved example of medieval Byzantine architecture with Islamic influences, and is worth a peek. The main attraction is the crypt below the church, where it is believed the Holy Family lived for a while during their time in exile. This sub-structure is the oldest part of the church and has elements dating back to early Christian times.
The Church of St. Sergius is located in the heart of Coptic Cairo (aka Old Cairo or Fustat) not too far from the Coptic Museum and about a half-mile south of the city center. There are generally no difficulties for Christians or other tourists to visit the venerable shrine. However, the crypt is prone to flooding and is occasionally closed. A special mass is held every year on June 1st which commemorates the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt. The Church is open daily from 8:00am-4:00pm. There is no charge for admission. Web: http://en.egypt.travel/attraction/index/abu-serga-st-sergius-and-bacchus-church (official tourism website of Egypt)