This week we visited the monastery of St St Simeon (Simon) the Tanner (or shoemaker) which is now most commonly referred to as The Cave Church. It's longer name is St. Simon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church in the Mokattam garbage village.
St Simons, the cave church on a garbage dump, is the largest Christian church in the Middle East. I was there this week chatting with some of the church leaders. With their interconnected network of 7 cave churches, that have capacity for 30,000 people. But today, at the Day of Prayer, 50,000 people are expected to turn up and they will be putting out some EXTRA CHAIRS! I can imagine!
This is a typical house down the road from the church. Families like recycle garbage for a living inside their own houses. Sometimes they live on the second floor above it but you can imagine its pretty smelly and not a great environment to live in or raise your children. About 30,000 people live at this Garbage City, but there are other Garbage Cities in Cairo also. Yesterday we visited one that had over 20,000 people. Most of these people are Coptic Christians.
St Simeons was started in 1969. It is has grown rapidly and now includes 7 cave cathedrals, all interconnected and all decorated with large carvings and sculptures.
The entrance to St Simons.
This is the second largest of the cave cathedrals.
This is the largest of the 7 cave cathedrals. Here they are setting up for this week's Day of Prayer service. The guy with the helmet is Mario, the Polish sculptor who has been making all these amazing pieces of art that decorate the churches.