The thirty-seventh patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (616-622). Andronicus was unanimously elected by the clergy and the bishops of the Coptic church. His election was universally acclaimed by the people of Alexandria to whom he was well known not only for his piety but also for his charitable character, since he gave generously to the poor of his community. Even the Chalcedonian dissidents among the inhabitants did not contest his nomination.
Andronicus was a man of immense wealth, and his family had a high social and political standing. His cousin became Alexandria’s chief administrator, “the head of the council of Alexandria,” according to the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS (p. 484). By vocation, Andronicus was an accomplished scribe, and although there is no record to prove that he was a theological scholar, he was undoubtedly a man of profound faith and a religious leader in his church. He was one of the very few laymen to attain the patriarchal dignity in Coptic history, for he was only a simple deacon in the Church of the Angelion at the time of his election. Though he was not a monk or a full-fledged presbyter, he remained a bachelor all his life and confined himself to a cell adjacent to the Church of the Angelion.
The reign of Andronicus came to pass during one of the most critical periods in Egyptian history, since it coincided with the last Persian invasion of the country at the beginning of the seventh century and before the Arab conquest of 642. Egypt was still under Byzantine rule during the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610-641). The Persians had no regard for Christianity and Christians. According to the History of the Patriarchs, their armies, under the leadership of the Persian emperor Chosroes II Parviz, descended upon Egypt and the Egyptians like locusts and “trod them down as the oxen tread the thrashing floor, and collected their wealth and all that they had into his [Chosroes’] treasuries” (p. 484 ).
After the conquest of the country, the Persian emperor dispatched a section of his armed forces, under the command of a certain Salar (probably a corruption of Shahr Baraz), to seize Alexandria and the adjacent district of Mareotis in the northern Nile Delta. On his way toward the capital, the Persian commander surrounded the rich area of the ENATON monastery and seized all its establishments by storm. The Persians slaughtered all its monks save a few who succeeded in concealing themselves in hiding spots. The troops pillaged everywhere and denuded what was probably the richest of Coptic monasteries of all its wealth and vast possessions. They left the Enaton completely in ruins. Once a flourishing monastic institution, it disappeared from the map, never to rise again.
When the news of this terrible catastrophe reached Alexandria, its authorities decided to negotiate a peaceful surrender in the hope of saving the city from being sacked and ruined. Thus they opened the city gates to the invaders who entered it without lifting a finger. Apparently the Persians feigned a peaceful entry. After establishing themselves in headquarters later known as the Castle of the Persians, they invited the young men of Alexandria from the age of eighteen to fifty years to go out of the walls for receiving a gift of twenty gold denarii each in a show of magnanimity.
The unsuspecting citizens, eighty thousand in number, responded, and as soon as they were assembled unarmed, Salar issued an immediate order to his troops to surround them and slay them all. After this sacrilege, the Persians left with their loads of loot and returned to Upper Egypt. When they reached the city of NIKIOU, a native traitor who may have been a Chalcedonian showed them the way to some adjacent monasteries, which were destroyed in the same way as all other places seized by the Persian battalions.
It was not until the Byzantine emperor Heraclius was able later in his reign to recapture his lost territories that Egypt could shake off the Persian yoke. Throughout that period, Andronicus remained hidden in his cell at the Angelion church. Although safe himself, he must have suffered at the loss of his people and the ruined monasteries. Within six years of his accession, he died on 20 Tubah, the day of his annual commemoration in Coptic churches.
- Milne, J. A History of Egypt Under Roman Rule. New York, 1898.
AZIZ S. ATIYA