The eighty-fourth patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1349-1363). Mark’s biography in the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS is confined to a few lines stating his dates and the general remark that his days were peaceful. He was a native of Qalyub in the Delta of Lower Egypt. Little else is known about his early secular life beyond the fact that he was the son of a priest of the CHURCH OF AL-MU‘ALLAQAH in Old Cairo and that his name was al-As‘ad Faraj. When he became a monk of DAYR SHAHRAN, he changed his name to Gabriel, and he took the name of Mark at his consecration as patriarch. He acceded to the throne of Saint Mark during the early years of the second sultanate of al-Nasir Hasan (1347-1351) and was a contemporary of Salih Salah al-Din (1351-1354), al-Nasir Hasan’s third reign (1354-1361) and al-Mansur Salah al-Din Muhammad (1361-1363).
Mark’s reign was troubled by the calamities that befell the whole country—Egypt was stricken by one of the worst plagues in its history. It is said that at least one-quarter of the population died, and that certain cities such as Bilbays were completely vacated. The plague and the depletion of the population resulted in an economic collapse. Many feudatories lost their labor corps, and agricultural products became scarce. Within the towns, industries also suffered on account of the death of skilled craftsmen. Revenues of the state were depleted, and the church was hardly able to pay the land tax. The Islamic administration had to prey upon individual fortunes, and what made matters even worse was the failure of the Nile floods— the arable lands were desiccated and diminished productivity was the result. The Mamluk amirs became restive and violently deposed one sultan after another. To make matters worse, the bedouin tribes from the desert descended into the valley, especially in the distant and undefended parts of Upper Egypt, and caused further havoc.
In the midst of this confusion, a Copt from the country came to Cairo and took to the streets, crying moralistic dicta and urging people to reform their character. He was arrested by the authorities and brought before the Islamic justice. Here he declared that he warned the Copts who had apostatized to Islam. The judge tried to deflect him from this policy and invited him to become a Muslim, which he adamantly refused preferring martyrdom for Christ. Finally he was decapitated and his body was burned.
The law-abiding Copts, who did not make a noise about religion, did not suffer during those times. And the Islamized Copts, who chose to abide by the new religion, prospered and occupied high positions in the administration. They included ‘Alam al-Din ‘Abdallah ibn Zanbur al-Qibti and Fakhr al-Din Majid ibn Qarunyah al-Qibti.
The disastrous crusade of Peter I de Lusignan and his Cypriot hosts took place during Mark IV’s patriarchate. In that holocaust, the Coptic community suffered as much as the Muslims in the pillage of the city. There were even Copts among the prisoners carried by the crusaders from the city.
After living in this atmosphere for fourteen years and three months, Mark III died on 6 Amshir A.M. 1079/A.D. 1363.
- Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani. Al-Durar al-Kaminah, 6 vols. Hyderabad, 1972-1976.
- Lane-Poole, S. History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1901.
- . The Mohammadan Dynasties. Paris, 1925.
SUBHI Y. LABIB