The seventy-second patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1147-1167). John was a monk in the Monastery of Saint John (Dayr Abu Yuhannis). Tradition claims that his name was included among the three candidates from whom the name of his predecessor MICHAEL V was chosen. This time he was chosen outright because of his chastity and his deeply religious character. He was only a deacon in his monastery, and therefore he was made a presbyter, then elevated to the rank of HEGUMENOS in al-Mu‘allaqah church. Yunus ibn Kadran, who previously sought the patriarchate for himself, was probably present at that ceremony. Later the pope offered Ibn Kadran the bishopric of Samannud, but he declined and returned to his monastery, unnamed by sources, where he remained until his death. John’s selection was sanctioned not only by the Coptic archons of both Cairo and Alexandria but also by the leading Muslim authorities, including the viceroy and the chief judge who met in council during the caliphate of al-Hafiz (1130-1149). He was consecrated first in Alexandria and then in Cairo in the church of Saint Mercurius in Old Cairo. He was a contemporary of the last Fatimid caliphs, including al-Hafiz, al-Zafir, al-Fa’iz, and al-‘Adid. This was the period of the decline of Fatimid rule and the final emergence of the Ayyubid dynasty, although the change of dynasties occurred after John’s death.
Curiously, the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS (Vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 42 [text]; p. 68-9 [trans.]) dwells largely on the local Islamic history of that period, depicting its confusion rather eloquently. Nevertheless, cursory references are made to other subjects connected mainly with the history of the Crusades and partly on the status of the Copts in that period. The conquest of the city of ‘Asqalan, the last of the Muslim-held Syrian towns, by the Latins is recorded during the vizierate of al-Afdal. The History of the Patriarchs records (Vol. 3, pt. 1, p. 44 [text]; p. 72 [trans.]) that Copts were ordered to wear distinguishing girdle (zunnar) and dark turbans, but this order was enforced only for three days, after which they were again released from such restrictions. The only dastardly act against the Copts was the destruction of the church of Saint George in Matariyyah and the construction of a Muslim mosque in its place.
John V’s reign took place during the Second Crusade, which began in 1146. This was a time when the Muslim rulers of the Near East became used to the Frankish presence and, according to the Arabic chronicles of the period, such as those of Usamah ibn Munquidh (1095-1188), instances of growing rapprochement between the Christian settlers and the native Arabs began to appear as an accepted occurrence. The Fatimid dynasty in Egypt was in the last phase of its decline, and its rulers contemplated a treaty with the crusader kingdom that would defend their Shi‘ite territory against their Sunni neighbors, who were determined to annihilate them. In fact, the Fatimids had to choose between two hostile neighbors, the Sunni kingdom of Nur al-Din and the Frankish kingdom of Jerusalem.
Apparently they chose the latter and in 1167 concluded a treaty that virtually placed Egypt under the protection of King Amalric, or Amaury (Atiya, 1962, p. 271) as he appears in a corrupted Arabic spelling. The position of Shawar, the minister of Caliph al-‘Adid, was endangered by the rise of a rival named Dirgham, while the Sunni general, Asad al-Din Shirkuh, was marauding in Egypt on behalf of Nur al-Din, the Syrian. Amalric’s treaty offered Shawar the opportunity of defending himself against both Muslim contestants. Amalric was at the time besieging Alexandria, and he raced back to Cairo to relieve Shawar. To save themselves from engaging in a battle of doubtful outcome, Shirkuh and Amalric agreed to leave the country to Shawar. But Amalric left behind him a Latin resident with a small garrison.
However, on the way back to his Syrian headquarters, Amalric changed his mind and decided to break his agreement with Shirkuh and return to Egypt, this time as a conqueror. At Bilbeis in the Eastern Delta, he massacred the population, and his progress toward Cairo bewildered the impotent Shawar, who decided to burn the capital to save it from falling into the hands of the Franks.
- Atiya, A. S. Crusade Commerce and Culture. Bloomington, Ind., 1962.
- Lane-Poole, S. History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1901.
- ____. The Mohammadan Dynasties. Paris, 1925.
- Potter, G. R. The Autobiography of Ousama. London, 1929. Runciman, S. History of the Crusades, 3 vols. Cambridge, 1953-1954.