This is the center of the Coptic Church in Jerusalem. The community of the Coptic Christians is an ancient Christian community originating in Egypt. The origin of the name “Coptic” is the word “Egyptus”, the Greek word for Egypt. According to their tradition, the Coptic Church was established by Saint Mark, one of the composers of the New Testament in the middle of the 1st century AD. Ancient Cristian scripts from the 2nd century onward were found in Egypt, and in its deserts emerged the Christian monasticism movement of the 3rd century.
Following the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Coptic church split from the Byzantine church together with the Syrian and Ethiopian churches (followed by the Armenian church), due to their belief in “monophysitism” – a single and united nature of Jesus, godly and human, that cannot be separated. This is contrary to the “Dyophysitism” perception, which perceives Jesus as having two separate natures, godly and human.
The Coptic compound is named after Saint Anthony, and it houses the abode of the Coptic archbishop. The Coptic patriarch’s abode is located in Alexandria. The heart of the monastery is the church of Saint Anthony, named after the Egypt-born saint who ridded himself of all of his assets to live in isolation in the desert. Anthony, who is considered father of the monasticism movement, fought against the devil, who tried to snatch his hat- a symbol of piety and innocence. His hat was torn during this symbolic struggle between good and evil. In memory of this battle, the Coptic monks’ hats have a longitudinal stitch, from the nape to the forehead, which enables us to easily identify them. The Coptic Christians have their own calendar which starts from 285 AD, the year Emperor Diocletian came to power and started persecuting the Christians.
Below the compound there are a number of connected halls from the Middle Ages as well as a huge well carved in the stone. The ancient well is named after Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century, and identified the location of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. The Coptic community also owns the Chapel of the Virgin Mary that is adjacent to the Holy Sepulcher, and some other buildings in the Christian Quarter.
It is possible to visit Saint Helena’s Pool (it can be entered through the main entrance. On the right side there is a chapel dedicated to Helena, and further from the main entrance, there is another entrance to the well. It is customary to pay a small sum in exchange for the visit to the site).