the Church of the Virgin, called al-Mucallaqah (the Suspended) as it rests on top of the two bastions of the Roman Gate.
This building was probably founded in the late 7С, although it is’ first mentioned in the mid 9С when the upper section was demolished by order of the governor of Egypt. It was rebuilt in 977 and in the 11C was involved in an argument with the Church of St. Sergius as to which was the premier church of Babylon. Several of the patriarchs were subsequently consecreated here. During the reign of al-Hakim it was turned into a mosque but after his death it was restored to the Christians. Much restoration was done in the late 19C.
At the top of the long steps is the late 19C portico, above which the residences of the clergy are surmounted by two modern towers. Inside there is an open court which leads into the narthex in the form of a second portico. The wagon-vaulted central nave is separated from the aisles by 16 pillars, one of black basalt. Along the centre of the nave are a further three pillars against the southernmost of which is the 13C marble ambon decorated with scallop and cross patterns. The central haykal is dedicated to the Virgin and has a fine 13C carved ebony screen inlaid with ivory.
Along the summit are icons of the Virgin and various saints. Behind the altar is the stepped tribune. The S haykal, dedicated to St. George, has a similar screen and 17 ikons by John the Armenian (dated 1771) depicting the martyrdom of St. George. Iconsby the same artist crown the haykal of the N sanctuary dedicated to St. John the Baptist. To the E lies the Little Church, built inside a bastion of the gate. The roof is supported by a massive pier. This is part of the original 4C church. On the SE side a 13C screen divides the church. The section nearer the door is the Sanctuary of Takla Haymanot, the patron “saint of Ethiopia, while the farther section is the Baptistery, On the Е wall are the remains of excellent wall-paintings probably of the 7—8C.