The Church of the Virgin Mary, the cave, is located adjacent to the northern wall in the middle of the monastery. In front of the church, there are three steps leading to the doxar, which contains the door of the church and a mosaic view of the Virgin Mary carrying the Lord Christ, and the level of the church is six degrees lower than the level of the doxar.
The middle sanctuary of this church is dedicated to the name of the Virgin Mary, and its iconostasis is made of wood and inlaid with ivory and has crosses dating back to the fifteenth century AD. At the upper part of the iconostasis, there is an icon of the Virgin Mary carrying the Lord Christ, and to her right and left are the twelve disciples, and at the very top we find the Cross and the Marys.
To the right of the sanctuary, there is a large icon of the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne carrying Christ.To the left of the sanctuary, there is an icon of Christ sitting on the throne, raising His hand as a sign of blessing and holding the Bible with His other hand, and His head is surrounded by a luminous halo containing the shape of a cross with three branches.As for the southern sanctuary, it is dedicated in the name of St. Mark the Apostle, and it has a recent iconostasis with icons of the fathers of the monastic order. From the left, they are St. Pachomius the Great, the father of the communal monastic life, St. Anthony the Great, the father of the monks. In the middle, there is St. Mark the Apostle and the Evangelist of the Egyptian lands with a boat and a lighthouse around him, the evidence of his preaching in Alexandria, and his name is written in the language Coptic. From the right, they are St. Makarius the Great, the founder of the monastic order in Wadi El-Natrun and St. Shenouda, the Archimandrite. All of them wear the monastic schema and hold a stick, except for St. Mark the Apostle, who wears a blue robe and a scarf.As for the northern sanctuary, it is dedicated in the name of St. George the Romanian Martyr, and we find on the iconostasis, from right to left, the icons of following martyrs: The martyr Abanoub al-Nahisi, the martyr Mina al-Agibi, and in the middle the martyr Marguirguis al-Romani, then the martyr Abi Seifin, and the lastly, the chaste martyr Demiana and the forty virgins.
The First Chorus The Saints Compartment:
In the first chorus, we find a newly built compartment in the church’s northern wall in front of the sanctuary of St. George the martyr, and it contains two tubes:The first tube contains the remains of Saint John Kama the priest, whose monastery was destroyed in the thirteenth century AD, so the monks of his monastery brought them to be placed in the monastery of Al-Suryan.As for the second tube, it contains the remains of twelve saints of different nationalities, namely: Saint Aphram the Syrian, who has a tree which is still present in the monastery until now, Saint Sewerus, Patriarch of Antioch, Saint Dioscorus, the twenty-fifth patriarch of Alexandria, Saint Kyriakos and his mother, the martyr Yulita, the martyr Prince Tadros al-Mashriqi, the forty martyrs of Sebastia, Saint James the Persian the Chopped, Saint Jannis the Short, Saint Moses the Black, Saint Archilides the monk, and finally the hair of Saint Mary Magdalene.The first chorus contains a group of icons, including:First – An icon of the Virgin Mary carrying the Lord Christ, and three angels overshadowing her on each side. St. John the Baptist appears holding the foot of the Lord Christ, to remind us of his saying, “I am not worthy to untie the straps of His sandals” (John 1:27). Next to him is a lamb, to remind us of his saying, “Behold, this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).Secondly – an icon of St. Mar Elias. At the top, we find Christ and the Virgin Mary, and below, it is written that it’s a drawing by Anastasi Al-Roumi in the year 1582 of the martyrs.Third – The icon of the crucifixion, in which the Lord Christ appears crucified, surrounded by the thief on the right and the thief on the left, and three soldiers with a spear, and below the Virgin Mary on the right and St. John the Beloved on the left.Fourth – The icon of the resurrection, which was also drawn by Anastas Al-Roumi in the year 1582 of the martyrs, and has similar copy found in the Coptic Museum.
The Second Chorus
The second chorus contains the old cabin that used to carry the remains of the saints, who were transferred to the new cabin in the first chorus. The most important characteristic of this cabin is the icons hanging in it and the decorations dating back to the twelfth century AD which are made of interleaved wood that has its own beauty. Wood was considered the main material for the Copts in their art as it is an easy substance for engraving, and it was used to decorate churches such as doors, thresholds, and icon holders. Actually wood carvings continue to be used in Coptic art to this day.
The door of this second chorus, which separates it from the first chorus, has some beautiful carvings that date back to the Fatimid era, which is characterized by decorations only, without engraving pictures. It is composed of three leaves of about six meters in length, and the fillings are beautifully made. The only entrance to the church is located in this chorus from the front side. As for the icons in the second chorus that hang on the walls, they are all modern icons.
At the end of this chorus from the west, we find the El-Lakan Basin, in which we pray the Epiphany Liturgy, i.e. the Feast of the Theophany.
The Third Chorus
As for the third chorus, we find on the wall, from the western side, three pieces of marble on which three letters are engraved; each letter has its own symbol and meaning. In the middle is the letter “Fay”, which is an abbreviation for the word “Ephnuti”, meaning God. The letter “Alpha” on the northern side means “the beginning” and the letter “Omega” on the southern side means “the end”, meaning that God is the beginning and the end. Besides, there is a large group of modern icons for a group of martyrs and saints in this chorus. The design of this church dates back to the ninth century AD. It is called the cave due to the presence of a cave, i.e. an underground hideout, in the northern wall that can be entered through an opening in the wall of the northern altar. The monks used it to escape during the barbarians attacks, and it still exists until now.