The Holy Family moved west until they reached Sakha region, and when they arrived, they were thirsty, but there was no water, so the Child Jesus touched a stone with his foot, and a spring of water came out of it and his foot left a mark on the stone. Hence the name of the place is “Pekha Isos” which means “the foot of Christ”. Sakha is one of the few places on the path of the Holy Family that was named after the event that took place in it. This stone was found in Al-Maghtas Monastery – the monastery was called by this name because it was famous for the baptism of Copts, even St. Demiana was baptized there.
In the thirteenth century, the monastery was destroyed, so the monks took the stone and hid it by burying it in front of the monastery door. It was discovered in 1984 AD by workers who were digging at a depth of 1.5 meters to do some sewage work. They found a gray stone 80 cm long with a brown hole in it, which the Copts believe was the foot of the Child Jesus at the age of two or three. On the other side of the stone is written the word “Allah” in Arabic. A pillar crown was buried with the stone.
Among the people who recognized this stone during its discovery was Halim Philip Mikhail, one of the members of the Sakha Church council. He said that many miracles occurred at the time of the stone discovery. In 1985, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III declared that this is the stone of the foot of Christ, or the stone of “Pekha Isos”. Since the discovery of the stone, it has been placed in a glass cupboard, and many people have come to take its blessing, especially during the feast commemorating the entry of the Holy Family into the land of Egypt on the first of June.
A church was built in this city in the name of the Virgin Mary and next to it there is a bath built in the Roman style, next to the Monastery of Baptism. The monastery remained full of monks until the end of the 12th century AD.
It was mentioned by Abu al-Makarim in the Book of Churches and Monasteries (1209 AD). Also, Taqey al-Din al-Maqrizi (1364-1441 AD) mentioned in his book “Al-Mawaaz wa al-Iatibar bzikr al-Khitat al-Athar” that it was located between Lake Burullus and the Rashid Nile branch, and that it was one of the famous shrines, which Christians used to come from all other places to visit for blessing on the 24th of Bashans. He also said that the Virgin Mary always appeared there on this day, so it was called the feast of the apparition of the Virgin Mary.
One of the miracles which happened in the Monastery of Baptism is that in one year the Nile did not meet its water level as usual, and the water of the Nile did not reach the Monastery of Baptism as it used to happen every year. On the night of the 11th of Tuba, after the people’s prayers and their exit from the church, they saw heavy rain until it intensified and became like a torrent. It is said that the water of the Nile filled the bath and overflowed as usual when the torrent reached it. Then suddenly the rain stopped, the sky cleared, the clouds disappeared, the moon rose, and the priests came out as usual, sanctifying the bath and plunged into it. It was a great joy.
In an interview with Reverend Timothy Yeni Hanin, priest of the ancient Church of the Virgin in Sakha, he said: “At the time of the Arab conquest of Egypt, the monks feared that the stone would be taken or destroyed, so they hid it in a place that no one knew and wrote on it from behind the word “God is one” in Arabic to mark it for easy identification. As the time passed, those who hid it died and the subsequent generations forgot this stone. However, on the date 9/27/1984 A.D., during the restoration of the ancient church that was built in the same site in the name of the pure Virgin Mary, and while making excavation to carry out some sewage works, they found a sandy stone 80 cm long, with a foot-shaped hole on it.”
The church celebrates on the first of June of every year the commemoration of the entry of the Holy Family into the land of Egypt, by making a procession and carrying the stone that the Lord Jesus sanctified; it is a great day of joy for the people of Egypt.
After the demolition of the Monastery of Baptism and the church, the place turned into a market for buying and selling until Muhammad Ali Pasha the Great ordered the construction of the church of the Virgin Mary at Sakha and he issued a decree or a document sealed with the seal of Muhammad Ali Pasha, which is preserved until now in the church. The church was demolished more than once and several years ago it was burned, then it was renovated and opened in 2014 AD.