CAIRO: Restoration of the Hanging Church is completed and the church will officially be reopened to the public in early October, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty announced on the ministry’s Facebook page Tuesday.
During a Tuesday inspection visit to Coptic Cairo, Damaty announced the completion of the three-year renovation of the fourth century church. He said the ministry is considering closing Coptic Cairo to traffic, as in the case of Al-Moez Street in Islamic Cairo, in order to provide privacy and divinity for visitors and worshipers.
In 2011, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) launched a comprehensive renovation project worth 40 million EGP (U.S. $5.8 million) to return the Hanging Church to its former “majesty and grandeur,” ministry project section head Mohamed Al-Sheikha was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram Tuesday.
“For decades, the fourth-century edifice has suffered from air pollution, a high underground water levels, humidity and water leakage due to the obsolete wastewater system in addition to the negative impact of the 1992 earthquake, [which caused] more cracks all over the walls and ceilings of the church,” Sheikha said.
Head of the SCA’s renovation and maintenance department Shady Sabry told The Cairo Post Tuesday the restoration project was launched mainly to reinforce the walls of the church, replace missing stones and fill in cracks with concrete trusses.
“The project succeeded in reducing the groundwater level using the latest techniques, restoring the foundations using needle piles methods and restoring the woodwork and the decorative items of the chapel,” Sabry said.
The Hanging Church, the first Basilica-style church in Egypt, dates back to the early third century A.D. I cave below the church is strongly believed to have housed Jesus and the Virgin Mary during their flight to Egypt, Coptic history professor at El-Minya University’s Faculty of Arts Mamdouh Khourshid told The Cairo Post Tuesday.
“The seat of the Patriarch, which was originally based in Alexandria since the introduction of Christianity in Egypt in 55 A.D., was transferred to the Hanging Church in the eleventh century,” said Khourshid, adding that the move was due to the shift of the ruling powers from Alexandria to Cairo following the Arab conquest of Egypt in 641 A.D.