The fiftieth patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (819-830). Jacob (Ya‘qub) is known to have been a monk of the monastery of Saint Macarius (DAYR ANBA MAQAR) at a time when the bedouins from the Western Desert raided WADI HABIB and pillaged its monasteries and destroyed many of its churches. This occurred during the latter part of the reign of MARK II, his predecessor. Apparently Jacob fled to the security of the distant monasteries of Upper Egypt, where he remained until the marauding bedouins left Wadi Habib, so that he was able to return to his old abode in Wadi al-Natrun. Evidently he was known to Mark II during their stay in the Monastery of Saint Macarius.
Jacob’s sanctity was well known to him, and on his deathbed he mentioned Jacob’s name to the bishops present as a worthy successor to the throne of Saint Mark. Thus, when Mark died, the bishops immediately went to Wadi Habib and brought back with them the monk Jacob for consecration.
Jacob was a contemporary of the famous Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun (813-833) at a time when war between the Andalusians and the Lakhmids was still rampant around Alexandria. The caliph appointed one of his generals as governor of Egypt, ‘Abdallah ibn Tahir, who in turn nominated Ilyas ibn Yazid as his deputy in Alexandria, with the mission to pursue the patriarch for payment of the annual KHARAJ tax. But the patriarch was impecunious because of the devastation that had befallen Alexandria as the result of the fighting in the city, and he had to produce all available sacramental utensils of gold and silver as a substitute in kind for the requested cash. In this difficulty, he was supported by a rich archon named Maqarah (Macarius) al-Nabarawi.
Maqarah is said to have gone to the caliph to appeal for the relief of the beleaguered patriarch, who was on a visitation tour in Upper Egypt. If we believe the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS, Maqarah did not return empty-handed, for the caliph granted him his wishes. But it is more reasonable to interpret the patriarchal visit to Upper Egypt as a means of raising funds to meet his liabilities. In fact, the History provides us with nothing concrete on the events that took place in Jacob’s times, beyond the usual tales of healing the sick and raising the dying.
SUBHI Y. LABIB