But the relic of St Sidhom Bishay was not encased in red velvet. His blessed body hadn't decayed and he just lay in his glass coffin as if in eternal testimony to the horrendous injuries he incurred in defense of his faith in Jesus Christ. What I didn't understand back then is that his martyrdom was the reason we the Copts have been able to raise the Lord's cross in our funerals since. You see, after the Arab invasion of Egypt, Muslim rulers prohibited the cross from being raised in public.
Here is the story of St Sidhom Bishay as told in the Coptic Synaxarium http://www.copticchurch.net/synaxarium/g_3_26_2006.html#4
Also, see this link for information on St Mary and St Sidhom Bishay in Domiat:
and in Arabic (contains a photo of the saint's blessed body):
On this day also the church commemorates the martyrdom of Sedhom Bishay in Domiat on the 17th. of Baramhat year 1565 A.D. (March 25th., 1844 A.D.). He endured the torture for the Name of the Lord Christ and his martyrdom made the rising of the Cross during the Christian funeral processions openly, for it was forbidden before.
This martyr was a clerical employee in the government of the port of Domiat during the days of Mohammed Ali Basha the Governor of Egypt. A revolt of mobs in the port arose, they seized Sidhom Bishay and accused him falsely that he cursed Islam and witnessed against him before the religious judge a low uncivilized person and a donkey driver. The judge decided either he would forsake his faith or be killed, he whipped him and then sent him to the Governor of the city. After the Governor had examined his case he issued the same judgement against him as the judge did. Sidhom was steadfast in his Christian faith, not caring to be killed. They whipped, dragged him on his face down the stairs in the Governor palace, then they put him on a buffalo facing the tail and went around with him in the streets of the city insulting and degrading him. The Christians in the city became afraid and locked themselves in their houses.
The mob continued to insult him and tortured him in different ways until he was about to deliver his soul; so they brought him to the door of his house and left him there. His family went out and brought him inside and five days later he departed to heaven.
His departure was a great martyrdom, and the Christians counted him among the holy martyrs. They gathered regardless of their denomination and joined in his funeral in a celebration that there was nothing like it before. The Christians carried their arms and the priest put on their vestments headed by the Archpriest Yousef Michael who was the head of the Coptic congregation in Domiat and accompanied by the priests of the other denominations. They marched in his funeral in the streets of the city and in front of him the deacons carrying the banners of the Cross, and they arrived to the church where they prayed the funeral rites. The people went on objecting this reprehensible and painful incident and talking about the patience and endurance of the different kinds of torture in silence and the steadfastness of Sidhom the martyr.
The prominent people of the Christian community in Domiat deliberated as how to avoid these incidents in the future. They decided to ask the consuls of the foreign countries to mediate with the ruler of the country and the Pope the Patriarch of the Copts and sent to them detailed reports. Mr Michail Sorour the official representative of seven countries in Domiat was in charge of this mediation.
The ruler of Egypt was concerned about this incident and sent two official representatives to examine the case. So they reopened the inquiry and they realized the injustice and the ill-treatment that befell the great martyr and convicted the judge and the governor for their wrong doing, stripped them from their honor then exiled them. They asked, as a good will and to comfort the people, to allow the raising of the Cross publicly before the Christian funerals, and the ruler allowed that in Domiat. This was allowed later on all over the country during the Papacy of Pope Kyrellos IV.
The blessings of this great martyr be with us and glory be to God forever. Amen.
Thank you St Sidhom Bishay. Thank you for bearing witness to the strength of Jesus Christ's love in the hearts of those who follow Him. Thank you for being the reason His cross was again held high in the land of Egypt.