One of Cairo’s most impressive and historic Coptic churches wows with ornate interior detail and relics including the remains of the church’s namesake Saint. It’s said that St. Barbara’s Pagan father murdered her after she attempted to convert him to Christianity—her remains, and the remains of several other Saints, can be found in a small alcove left of the main altar. Records of the ancient church have been scattered by time, but many believe the building could date back to the 4th century; an old iron gate connects the church to the Coptic cemetery along its side. Gold‐leafed icons adorn the walls and geometric ebony and ivory paneling serves as a backdrop to the main altar. A number of the church’s more interesting historical artifacts are housed at the off‐site Coptic Museum, including more icons, old manuscripts, textiles and more are just a short walk away—it’s worthwhile to visit both. Today the vaulted ceiling and marble pillared church still hosts mass, with services in both Arabic and Coptic languages—check the entrance placard or with on‐site attendants for dates and times.
The Church of St Barbara is located within the confines of the old Fortress of Babylon off Kasr Al Shama’e in the heart of old Cairo, about 1,000 feet east of the Nile. As this is a place of worship, it’s best to dress conservatively.