Anianus

ANIANUS

The immediate successor as patriarch (68-85) to Saint MARK I the Evangelist and his first convert to the new religion in the region of Alexandria. When Mark I entered Rakotis, a suburb of Alexandria, following his journey from Cyrene in the Pentapolis, the strap of his sandal broke off. He found a cobbler named Anianus to repair it. While working on the sandal, an awl slipped and pierced Anianus’ hand. He then cried “Heis ho Theos,” the Alexandrian for “ is one,” an utterance that opened the way for Mark to preach monotheistic Christianity to him while miraculously healing his wound in the name of Jesus.

It is difficult to know whether Anianus was Jewish or a pagan native under the influence of the opulent Jewish community and its monotheistic teachings in Alexandria. Consequently, Mark was invited to Anianus’ home, where he taught his family the Gospel and baptized them all. This proved to be the beginning of a rich harvest of other converts in this area, which provoked the pagan citizens to defend their local gods against the intruder.

Thus Mark decided to disappear for the time being from the scene of imminent strife. He Anianus as bishop, together with three presbyters and seven deacons, to watch over the spiritual welfare of the flock during his absence. He was away for two years and is said to have gone to Rome, Aquileia, and the Pentapolis, performing miracles and baptizing an increasing number of converts. He returned to Alexandria to find that the new faithful had multiplied and were able to build their own church at Bucalis on the shore of the eastern harbor—the Portus Magnus of the Ptolemies. The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS describes that place as “the Cattle-Pasture, near the sea, beside a rock from which stone is hewn” (Vol. 1, pt. 1, p. 145 [47]).

After Mark’s martyrdom on the 30th of the Coptic month of Baramudah, the second day after Easter, which happened to be the same day as the festival of the Alexandrian Serapis, Anianus assumed the leadership of the nascent church as its second patriarch. He remained in this capacity for seventeen years, six months, and nine days, during which the believers in Christ increased in numbers and he new and deacons for them. It is not known whether other churches were built in addition to Bucalis, but we must assume that most of the missionary work was limited to Alexandria and that it was conducted secretly to avoid the hostility of the pagan population. At any rate, the new patriarch survived the rule of the Roman Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, and Titus. During the reign of Domitian (81-96), he died in his bed, probably in 83 or 85, and was laid to rest next to Saint Mark in Bucalis.

The Western view that Anianus was the first patriarch of the Coptic church is denied by the Copts, who place him as the second, insisting that their first patriarch was Saint Mark, the founder of their church. The official church view is the one adopted throughout this work.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Atiya, A. S. History of Eastern Christianity. Millwood, N.Y., 1980. O’Leary, D. The Saints of Egypt. Amsterdam, 1974.
  • Roncaglia, M. Histoire de l‘église copte, Vol. 1. Beirut, 1966 (6 vols., in progress).
  • Smith, W., and H. Wace. Dictionary of , 4 vols. New York, 1974.
  • Tillemont, L. S. N. Mémoires pour servir à l‘histoire écclesiastique, Vol. 2. Paris, 1711.

AZIZ S. ATIYA