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The Miracle of Muqattam: Moving a Mountain to Build a Church in Fatimid Egypt

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Chapter Summary

Beginning in the 1970s, a series of massive cave churches were carved into the limestone cliffs of the Muqattam Mountain in Cairo. These churches marked the site of the tenth century, Fatimid-era 'Miracle of Muqattam'. A consideration of the tenth-century foundational tale to which these cave churches are linked contributes to a more nuanced view of the richly textured nature of Muslim-Christian life and interfaith relations in early Fatimid Egypt. Although the Fatimid period may have been a relatively peaceful time for the Christian minority, obstacles to church construction and restoration were still extremely significant. This tale suggests that the Coptic community had to 'move mountains' to gain the necessary permissions to restore their churches. In more recent history, the complex associated with the Miracle of Muqattam stands as a site of special spiritual power and pilgrimage, celebrating the Fatimid-era miracle and housing the relics of St Samaan the tanner.

Keywords: church construction; Coptic community; Fatimid Egypt; Miracle of Muqattam; St Samaan the tanner



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