The church of St. Barbara is among the churches of Old Cairo of historic importance. It was originally dedicated to St. Cyrus and St. John who were worshipped for their healing powers. A small church at the northeastern corner of the building commemorates these two martyrs.
The Church of St. Barbara is one of the oldest and the most remarkable churches in Cairo. It is situated in the eastern part of the Babylon fort. It dates back to the 5th century and was rebuilt around the 11th century.
It is named after St. Barbara; she was a beautiful young lady. She converted to Christianity and refused to marry any of the aristocratic young men in Alexandria, devoting herself to serving Jesus Christ and God. Her father Dioscorus was a non-believing pagan. Tradition provides that Dioscorus built a magnificent tower to safeguard his daughter, perhaps from the growing influence of Christianity. However, during his frequent business trips abroad, she was converted to Christianity, so he tortured her, and then he complained about her to the Roman governor Marcianus, who in turn tortured her even more. However, Barbara resisted and refused to leave Christianity. Finally, she was killed and martyred, together with her companion, Juliana.
Documents from the 13th century mention that the relics of St. Barbara were kept in this church. Many of its precious items, like two door panels, a wooden screen, an icon and Bible caskets were transferred to the nearby Coptic Museum.
The Church takes a shape of a Roman Basilica, comprised of an entrance, a narthex, a nave, two aisles and three sanctuaries that are located in the east wing of the church. The middle Sanctuary is the main one, dedicated to St. Barbara.
There are two rows of five columns each that separate the northern and southern isles from the nave.
The small area to the north of the sanctuary is fairly modern, with three chapels; it was dedicated to the Saints Cyrus and John.