February 24, 2024

Ismailia’s ‘French church’ a marvel for tourists in Egypt

Ismailia: Cairopost, News desk

One of the standout tourist attractions in Egypt’s Ismailia Governorate is the Church of St. Mark, located about 100 km east of Cairo.
Flobater Gad, a researcher in Coptic architectural art “The Church of St. Mark in Ismailia is commonly known as the French Church due to its association with Ferdinand de Lesseps — the engineer who conceived the idea of the Suez Canal.
“The church, which is 160 years old, is one of the most ancient and well known in Egypt. It is an architectural masterpiece that tourists who visit Ismailia seek out.”
Gad added: “The church is visited by people of both the Christian and Muslim faiths.
“I will never forget the Christmas occasion when a delegation from Al-Azhar Al-Sharif offered their festive greetings to the Coptic brothers in Ismailia.
“The Al-Azhar delegation offered Dhuhr prayer at the courtyard of one of Egypt and Africa’s oldest churches.”
Gad described the church as a “magnificent artistic masterpiece” that has gained heritage importance due to its similarity to another church in France.
“It includes several beautiful paintings and a cave representing Christ’s birthplace.
“This cave represents where Mary went to Jerusalem and sat in a place similar to a stable where she gave birth to Christ.”
Shahinaz Malak, an Ismailia resident and an archaeology student, said: “The church — one of the oldest in Ismailia Governorate — is located on Ahmed Orabi Street and is considered one of the most famous in the world.
“The Cathedral of Saint Mark is a church belonging to the Coptic Catholic denomination.”
Shahinaz told Arab News that the 160-year-old site holds significant artistic value.
“In 1864, construction of a small church began. This church is currently located behind the large church and is affiliated with the Catholic Club.
During the digging of the Suez Canal, three churches were built in Ismailia. These were the churches of Gesr, Timsah and Marana camps.
“After the completion of the canal, these churches were used as places of worship for the workers in the area.
Abdelmajid Abdelaziz, an Egyptian heritage researcher, said that the church faced a dangerous turn when a major flood struck Ismailia on June 25, 1865.
The flood killed 40 people. Among the dead were 15 French nationals, 10 Austrians, Italians and others of various nationalities.
After the church’s expansion, some people were still unsatisfied, so they decided to construct another building. This building now stands at the intersection of Ahmed Orabi and Saad Zaghloul Streets.
The researcher told Arab News that the construction of the newer building began in 1924, with work lasting for five years until the site’s inauguration in 1929

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