In the Gospel of Matthew, the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus escape from Palestine into Egypt out of fear from persecution of Herod the Great. The Holy Family traveled all the way to Assiut, and on their way back home spent several weeks in Old Cairo. Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church stand traditionally on the spot where the Holy Family rested at the end of their journey in Egypt. They may have even lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress.
The Church of Saint Sergius and Bacchus (Abu Serga) is considered to be the oldest Christian church in Cairo. It is dedicated to the two Saints Sergius and Bacchus who served as soldiers in the Roman Army, and were devoted faithful followers of Jesus and refused to worship Roman idols. For their Christian faith, the two Saints suffered martyrdom in Syria in 296 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maximinus. Their relics are partly kept in Abu Sarga and others are buried in Syria.
The church is of great historical importance since it’s where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected with the first Patriarch Isaac 681-692. From the 9th to the 12th century, several bishops were also consecrated in Abu Sarga until the 11th century. Even thou the church was restored several times (11th & 17th century, the last restoration was completed in 2000), it still preserves its Medieval beauty and charm. It is the episcopal church of Cairo, and it was the episcopal See of Masr (the district of Old Cairo) that replaced the former See of Babylon. Many bishops of the See were consecrated in the Church until the reign of Patriarch Christodulus in 1047–1077.
The most interesting feature you’ll find on our Christian Holy Land tour is the crypt where Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus are said to have rested. The crypt is 10 meters deep and, when Nile levels are high, is often flooded. Abu Sarga also once housed Egypt’s oldest altar which was transferred to the Coptic Museum. When visiting this Holy site you can marvel at the roof of the church, it is said it was constructed in the shape of Noah’s ark. The Church was built in the 4th century and was likely completed during the 5th century. After it was burned during the fire of Fustat during the reign of Marwan II around 750. There was a restoration in the 8th century, and has been rebuilt and restored constantly since medieval times; however, it is still considered to be a model of the early Coptic churches and a must Holy Land site to visit.