Marqos IV (D. 1716) – Ethiopian Saints

MARQOS IV (d. 1716)

Because Marqos was abun not only during the last years of the reign of Negus Iyyasu I (1682-1706) but also during a turbulent period comprising the reigns of Takla Haymanot (1706-1708), Tewoflos (1708-1711), Yostos (1711-1716), and Dawit IV (1716-1721), for whom there are no royal chronicles, there is much information about the early years of his metropolitanate, especially in the chronicle of Iyyasu I, but few data about the final period.

Marqos IV was the successor to Abuna Sinoda. The latter, enthroned during the reign of Yohannes I (1677-1682), had at first been forced to acquiesce to the religious of this ruler, who openly leaned toward the thesis of the Unctionists (monks of the order of Ewostatewos) in the over union and unction, a quarrel that had arisen during the time of Abuna Mika’el IV. Negus Iyyasu I, contrary to his father Yohannes, favored the Unionists (monks of the order of Takla Haymanot), and when the negus decided to reverse his father’s ecclesiastical politics, Sinoda was placed in a difficult position. With Sinoda’s concurrence, Iyyasu I thought it wise to ask the JOHN XVI (1676-1718) to send a new bishop to Ethiopia.

This bishop, named Marqos, arrived in Ethiopia via and was introduced by Sinoda himself to the civil and dignitaries during an assembly held at Gonder on 18 Maskaram 1681 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 25 September 1689). But the chronicle states that “Sinoda was not dismissed, and Marqos was sent to Sarka, where he was installed with all the honors due him, for two could not reside in the same city.” It may be deduced therefrom that the negus decided not to enthrone Marqos at this time, but to consider him as Sinoda’s coadjutor. Thus, he sent Marqos to Sarka, a city near the frontier of Sennar, where this prelate had to reside. According to one source, Marqos lived there in company with his father, mother, and brother.

He was not seen at Gonder for some years. When the negus visited the cathedral of Axum on 6 Yakkatit 1685 (A.D. 10 February 1693), he was accompanied by the aged Abuna Sinoda. Upon his return to Gonder, on the feast day of Abuna Salama I, first bishop of Ethiopia (26 Hamle 1685/A.D. 30 July 1693), the negus had a letter read before a large assembly in which the John XVI, at the negus’s request, declared that he was deposing Sinoda and elevating Marqos in his place. Marqos IV was enthroned immediately, so this date also marks his accession to the supreme throne.

In 1698, Abuna Marqos had to assist at a council wherein the question of union and unction was discussed anew. Once again the thesis of the Unctionists was rejected, and its adherents excommunicated, by Marqos IV. During his sojourn in Gonder (July 1699-May 1700), the French physician Jacques Charles also had an with Abuna Marqos, who received him with great courtesy. At that time the physician noted the prestige accorded this metropolitan by the king and clergy.

In 1706, Iyyasu I had to leave the throne to his son and to the Unctionists, who had been hoping for this change. Immediately they reopened the with the Unionists, but in March 1707 the abun responded as he had before. However, in 1708 they were successful after the accession to the throne of Negus Tewoflos, who was the protector of the order to which they belonged.

Without convoking a council, Tewoflos imposed by proclamation the doctrine of unction. by political considerations, the negus hoped that by adopting this doctrine, he could appease Gojam, whose clergy was devoted to the Unctionist thesis. It appears that Marqos IV was then obliged to approve this doctrine, but there is little documentation for this period of his episcopate.

Nor is there any information about the following period, that of the reign of Yostos the Usurper, so called because he descended only from a female line of the Solomonic dynasty. However, from the Abridged Chronicle it may be deduced that Abuna Marqos IV supported the political party that opposed Yostos and succeeded in replacing him by Dawit IV, who assumed power on 5 Yakkatit 1708 (A.D. 11 February 1716) and favored the Unctionists, and so it is possible that Marqos IV approved this decision.

A few weeks later there occurred an event that had repercussions in Europe. This was the trial of the Capuchin monks Liberato Weiss, Michele Pio da Zerbo, and Samuele de Beano, who had entered Ethiopia under the protection of Negus Yostos and were residing in Walqayt, a western district far removed from the capital. They were brought to Gonder, condemned and stoned to death on 27 Yakkatit 1708 (A.D. 4 March 1716). However, it does not follow that Marqos IV played a role in this trial, as has often been claimed. Moreover, his days were coming to an end, for he died on 30 Sane 1708 (A.D. 5 July 1716).

His successor was Abuna Krestodolu III.

  • BIBLIOGRAPHY
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SALVATORE TEDESCHI