It is a world renowned fact that, twice a year, the sun rays penetrate the rock-hewn temple of Abu-Simbel, south of Aswan, at dawn, travels through the length of the temple to the inner chamber, and illuminates the face of the statue of Ramses II who is one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, if not the greatest. The two dates coincide with 22 February and 22 October, the birthday and coronation of the Pharaoh.
The astronomical phenomenon according to which the temple was precisely built to align with the sun on specific dates goes back 3,200 years. It is, however, not a lone incident in Egypt. The 4th-5th-century church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Mit-Ghamr on the eastern branch of the Nile Delta is so aligned that the sun rays fall on an altar consecrated in the name of the Holy Virgin on 16 Misra on the Coptic calendar, 22 August on the Gregorian. The date coincides with the Feast of her Assumption.
Hundreds flock to the church to witness the phenomenon and attend Holy Mass celebrated that day by Anba Saleeb, Bishop of Mit Ghamr. Fr Yuhanna of Mar-Girgis’s explained that the church features two other altars on which the sun rays fall on dates of feasts of the saints for whom the altars were consecrated: St George (1 May) and the Archangel Michael (19 June).
21 August 2017