ST. GEORGE CONVENT
Old Cairo comprises six ancient churches, a Jewish Synagogue which was previously a Coptic church named after the angel Gabriel, the Coptic Museum and our convent, St. George.
These are the words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ to St. George before his martyrdom. From the manuscript of St. George kept in St. George’s Convent in Old Cairo:
“I swear by myself, my beloved George, that as there was no one borne of woman greater than John the Baptist, also no martyr resembles you. You will have no counterpart among them. I made your name spread in my kingdom and gave it grace and made it a port of safety for all mankind. Whoever, in distress, calls on your name, either man or woman, I will quickly answer and give them their heart’s request.”
At the entrance, one set of stairs lead to the shrine and the other lead upstairs to where the nuns live. Within this entrance hall is a mosaic icon of the great martyr St. George made in January 1988. The design is copied from a historical icon which is present in the convent.
This ancient icon of St. George dating back to the 19th century is painted in the style of Greek iconography. It depicts the seven crowns that the Great Martyr won for the seven full years of torture before his martyrdom. In the upper part of the icon are two angels descending from heaven. The angel on the right holds six crowns with his left hand while together, the two angels place the seventh crown on St. George’s head. This proves the promise of God to him.
The historical shrine of St. George comprises the main hall, which dates back to the 10th century. The hall consists of seven rooms with wooden doors leading into them. All the doors are decorated with detailed carvings. The wooden ceilings, also delicately carved, are supported by stone arches. The seven rooms adjoined to the hall resemble a hermitage. Some historians (Russle, Coqqin, Lezine) say they were used as private rooms for the nuns.
In an oblong shape of 23 m long and 9 m wide, it also includes numerous architectural units and decorative doors and windows. The most important of these is the huge door measuring almost 7.6 m high and flanked by two smaller doors. These doors lead to the interior compartment of the martyr’s shrine.
The huge ancient door leading from the main hall to the interior partitioned sections is one of the rarest wooden doors found in the world. Dating back to the 10th century, it is 7.6 m high and 2.22 m wide. It consists of an external framework and four panels. The total height of the panel is a single piece divided into units with ornamental wooden fillers.
Part of the frieze on the south ceiling of the main hall contains verses from Psalm 91: “Whoever dwelleth under the defense of the Most High”. The words that appear in the picture are “…to keep thee in all thy ways”.
Within the shrine itself, relics of St. George’s martyrdom are kept from his trial under the Persian King Dadianos. 70 rulers were gathered to cast judgement on St. George’s faith and sentenced him to be tortured. They used all sorts of torturing instruments as well as a chain to which he was tied during his tortures. This chain is a cause of blessing because it was put on the body of the martyr where his blood ran. We believe that the things that touch the bodies of saints become a blessing, as the Bible said about Paul: “So that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:22).
This chain is found in the middle section of the shrine. Through it, and by faith, many miracles take place and evil spirits are overcome.
The new library of the convent was established in 1995 and contains many different books and manuscripts. It was designed on two levels with an audio-visual library.
The Nuns of St.George Convent, Old Cairo