The Coptic Orthodox Church, which like the Ethiopian and Eritrean churches makes reference to Alexandrian tradition, has its origin in Egypt. A tradition holds that the Copts arrived in Palestine in the 4th century, as a result of the visit of Saint Helena (Constantine’s mother) although, in all probability, their first contacts with the Holy Places occurred through monastic experiences.
The Copts, who today in Jerusalem number about 5,000 concentrated around their archbishop who resides in the Monastery of Saint Anthony beside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, have use of the altar attached to the rear of the Edicule.
A Coptic monk is always present at the altar, recognizable by his gold-embroidered black hat.
Their services, which take place every Sunday in front of their altar, are held in Arabic with a portion in Coptic, a language formed from ancient Egyptian mixed with Greek.