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Saint Mark the Evangelist
Coptic icon of Saint Mark
Evangelist, Martyr
Born 1st century AD, Judea
Died April 25, 68 AD, Alexandria
Venerated in Oriental Orthodox Church, Byzantine Church, Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Anglican Church, Lutheran Church and some other Protestant Churches
Major shrine Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral (Cairo, Egypt)
Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral (Alexandria, Egypt)
Basilica di San Marco (Venice, Italy)
Feast April 25
Attributes Lion in the desert; bishop on a throne decorated with lions; man helping Venetian sailors; man holding a book with "pax tibi Marce" written on it; man holding a palm and book; man with a book or scroll accompanied by a winged lion; man with a halter around his neck; man writing or holding his gospel; rescuing Christian slaves from Saracens.
Patronage Barristers, Venice, and others; see [3]

Mark the Evangelist (Coptic: Hebrew: מרקוס‎; Greek: Μάρκος), was said to be the disciple and interpreter of Saint Peter, follower and Apostle of Jesus Christ. According to Eusebius [1] Mark composed a gospel embodying what he had heard Peter preach. [2] [3] [4]

Tradition identifies him with John Mark mentioned as a companion of Saint Paul in Acts, who later is said to have become a disciple of Saint Peter.[5][6] Mark was believed to have traveled to Alexandria, Egypt and formed a church. He became its first bishop and founder of Christianity in Africa.[7] He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried there, Annianus succeeding him. [8] [9] [10] [11]

His feast day is celebrated on April 25, and his symbol is the lion.[12]

Biblical and traditional information

Mark of the Pauline Epistles is specified as a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10); this would explain Barnabas' special attachment to the Mark of Acts over whom he disputed with Paul (Acts 15:37-40). Mark's mother was a prominent member of the earliest group of Christians in Jerusalem.[13] It was to her house that Peter returned on his release from prison; the house was a meeting-place for the brethren, "many" of whom were praying there on the night of Peter's release.(Acts 12:12-17).[4] Evidence for Mark's authorship of the Gospel that bears his name originates with Papias.[14][15]

The martyrdom of Saint Mark. Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (Musée Condé, Chantilly).

A number of traditions have built up around Mark, though none can be verified from the New Testament. Traditionally, Mark is said to be the man who carried water to the house where the Last Supper took place (Mark 14:13).[16] And the young man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52).[17]

Coptic Church tradition additionally states that Mark is the one who hosted the disciples in his house after the death of Jesus, into whose house the resurrected Jesus Christ came (John 20), and into whose house the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost. Mark is also believed to be one of the servants at the Marriage at Cana who poured out the water that Jesus turned to wine (John 2:1-11),[18] and was one of the Seventy Apostles sent out by Christ (Luke 10:1).[18]

According to the Coptic church, Saint Mark was born in the Pentapolis of North Africa. This tradition adds that he returned to Pentapolis later in life after being sent by Saint Paul to Colosse (Colossians 4:10) and serving with him in Rome (Phil 24; 2 Tim 4:11) ; from Pentapolis he made his way to Alexandria.[19] When Mark returned to Alexandria, the people there are said to have resented his efforts to turn them away from the worship of their traditional Hellenistic gods. In AD 68 they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.[20]

Fate of his remains

Russian Orthodox icon of St. Mark the Evangelist, 18th century (Iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi Monastery, Karelia, Russia).

St. Mark by Donatello (Orsanmichele, Florence).

In 828, relics believed to be the body of St. Mark were stolen from Alexandria by two Venetian merchants and taken to Venice, where the Byzantine Theodore of Amasea had previously been the patron saint. A basilica was built there to house the relics.

There is a mosaic on this Venetian basilica showing how the sailors covered the relics with a layer of pork. Since Muslims are not allowed to touch pork, this action was done to prevent Muslim intervention in the relics removal.

Copts believe that the head of the saint remained in Alexandria. Every year, on the 30th day of the month of Babah, the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the commemoration of the consecration of the church of St. Mark, and the appearance of the head of the saint in the city of Alexandria.

This takes place inside St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, where the saint's head is preserved.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day on January 4 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar, January 4 currently falls on January 17 of the modern Gregorian calendar).

In 1063, during the construction of a new basilica in Venice, St. Mark's relics could not be found. However, according to tradition, in 1094 the saint himself revealed the location of his remains by extending an arm from a pillar.[21] The newfound remains were placed in a sarcophagus in the basilica. [4]

Illumination of St. Mark in the 11th century Trebizond Gospel (Russian State Museum, Saint Petersburg).

In June 1968, Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria sent an official delegation to Rome to receive a relic of St. Mark from Pope Paul VI. The delegation consisted of ten metropolitans and bishops, seven of whom were Coptic and three Ethiopian, and three prominent Coptic lay leaders.

The relic was said to be a small piece of bone that had been given to the Roman pope by Giovanni Cardinal Urbani, Patriarch of Venice. Pope Paul, in an address to the delegation, said that the rest of the relics of the saint remained in Venice.

The delegation received the relic on June 22, 1968. The next day, the delegation celebrated a pontifical liturgy in the Church of Saint Athanasius the Apostolic in Rome. The metropolitans, bishops, and priests of the delegation all served in the liturgy. Members of the Roman papal delegation, Copts who lived in Rome, newspaper and news agency reporters, and many foreign dignitaries attended the liturgy.

In the book The Lost Tomb of Alexander, historian Andrew Chugg argues that the relics of St. Mark in Venice are actually those of Alexander the Great. Few historians, however, accept this claim.

See also


  1. Paul L. Maier, The Church History, Kregel Publications, 2007 p 114 [1]
  2. F. L. Cross & E. A. Livingstone, The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, 1989 pp. 874-875
  3. Thomas Patrick Halton, On illustrious men, Volume 100 of Fathers of the Church, CUA Press, 1999 pp.17-19 [2] and the Early Church Fathers
  4. 4.0 4.1 Senior, Donald P. (1998), "Mark", in Ferguson, Everett, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (2nd ed.), New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., pp. 719, ISBN 0-8153-3319-6 
  5. Saint Irenaeus (c. 180),Against Heresies, III, 1, 1.
  7. Bunson, Matthew; Bunson, Margaret; Bunson, Stephen (1998), Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints, Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, pp. 401, ISBN 0-87973-588-0 
  9. Acts of the Apostles 15:36-40
  10. 2 Timothy 4:11
  11. Philemon 24
  12. Senior, Donald P. (1998), "Mark", in Ferguson, Everett, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (2nd ed.), New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., pp. 720, ISBN 0-8153-3319-6 
  13. University of Navarre (1999), The Navarre Bible: Saint Mark's Gospel (2nd ed.), Dublin: Four Court’s Press, pp. 55–56, ISBN 1-85182-092-2 
  14. Papias, Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, VI.
  15. Harrington, Daniel J. (1990), "The Gospel According to Mark", in Brown, Raymond E.; Fitzmyer, Joseph A.; Murphy, Roland E., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, pp. 596, ISBN 0-13-614934-0 
  16. University of Navarre (1999), The Navarre Bible: Saint Mark’s Gospel (2nd ed.), Dublin: Four Court’s Press, pp. 172, ISBN 1-85182-092-2 
  17. University of Navarre (1999), The Navarre Bible: Saint Mark’s Gospel (2nd ed.), Dublin: Four Court’s Press, pp. 179, ISBN 1-85182-092-2 
  18. 18.0 18.1 H.H. Pope Shenouda III, The Beholder of God Mark the Evangelist Saint and Martyr, Chapter One.
  19. [|Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States], St. Mark the Apostle, the Founder of the Coptic Church,, retrieved 2009-05-14 
  20. H.H. Pope Shenouda III. The Beholder of God Mark the Evangelist Saint and Martyr, Chapter Seven.
  21. Okey, Thomas (1904). Venice and Its Story. London: J. M. Dent & Co.. 

External links

Preceded by
New creation
Pope of Alexandria
Succeeded by

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