Saint Mark the Evangelist is the Founder of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He is one of the seventy apostles (Lk.10:1) and the writer of the second of the four gospels, born in the City of Cyrene in Libya three years after the birth of Jesus Christ. His original name was John and his surname was Mark (Act.12:12). He was of Jewish parents (his mother is called Mary as in Act.12:12) who later moved to Palestine. It is believed that his father was related to Saint Peter’s wife. Saint Peter regards saint Mark as his son (1Pet.5:13). It is well known that Saint’s Mark’s house (his mother, Mary’s house) is the first Church in the world. It is in Saint Mark’s house that the Lord Christ celebrated the Passover and the Last Supper with His disciples (Mk.15:13-15) and appeared to the disciples in the Day of His Resurrection and eight days later (Jn.20). The Apostles gathered in his house when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the Day of Pentecost (Act.1:13, 2:1) and when St. Peter was imprisoned as well (Act.12:12).
His First Mission to Egypt
When Saint Mark entered and walked through the streets of Alexandria, the most famous city in Egypt at that time; his sandals were torn; and thus he sought to have them mended. But while Ananias (Anianus) the cobbler was mending the shoes, his finger was cut by the awl, and he cried out saying, ‘Eoc Theos’ which means, ‘O the one God’. After healing the cobbler’s finger, Saint Mark spoke to him about who the one God really was. Ananias invited Saint Mark to his home, after which, he and his household were baptized after having professed their belief in the Christian faith. Soon afterwards, many others believed, and Ananias’ house became the meeting place for the faithful. So it became the first church in Egypt. This mostly happened in the fifties of the first century. In the beginning, Saint Mark prayed the liturgy by the Greek language; later on it is prayed by the Coptic language.
Saint Mark decided to leave Egypt to visit the new believers he had preached in the Pentapolis, but before leaving, he ordained Ananias bishop.
His Second Mission and Martyrdom
When Saint Mark returned to Egypt in 61 AD, after the martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, he found that the church there had grown so much that he ordained a further three priests and seven deacons to assist Ananias. Saint Mark preached for more than seven years against the local pagan gods with such vigor that the feeling of hatred from non-believers against him became intense.
At that time, Serapes was the god of the Greeks in Egypt, he was the god of Alexandria. On Easter Day in 68 AD, Saint Mark was administering the Holy Liturgy, and on the same day, the pagans were celebrating the feast of Serapes. Encouraged by the Romans perfect, the pagans rushed and attacked the church Saint Mark and the faithful praying. They captured Saint Mark, tied a rope around him, and dragged him through the streets of the city. At night he was thrown into the prison where an angel appeared to him strengthening and encouraging him. On the following day, he was dragged again through the streets and eventually died a martyr for the sake of God whom he had so faithfully served from a young age.
Saint Mark is the first of the unbroken line of Patriarchs of the Coptic Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the current Patriarch, being Saint Mark’s 117th successor- the 118th Pope of Alexandria. The full official title of the head of the Coptic Church is Pope of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark.