A ninety-second patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1476-1478). Michael (or in Arabic, Mikha’il) is briefly mentioned in the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS; the dates of his investiture and his death are given, but no reference is made to the monastery from which he was chosen to occupy this ecclesiastical high office.
The See of Saint Mark remained vacant for more than a year after the decease of his predecessor GABRIEL VI. The Coptic sources provide no explanation for this long interregnum, so it must be assumed that the clergy, the bishops, and archons could not find a suitable candidate for this important post, so vital to the Coptic community.
Michael was the son of a priest named Yuhanna ibn Sumay‘ah, and his native town was Manfalut in Upper Egypt. He remained in the patriarchate for the rather short period of two years and one month and twenty-two days. The Islamic chronicler Ibn Iyas says that Michael died of the plague during the reign of the Burji Mamluk sultan Qa’itbay (1468-1495). Apparently the Copts enjoyed relative security during his short tenure, since Ibn Iyas states that the sultan gave Michael a robe of honor when he went to pay homage to him. Furthermore, Ibn Iyas praises Michael as a patriarch of good character, who was beloved by his coreligionists.
Although the Coptic sources are silent on the significant Coptic personalities of this short reign, the Islamic sources name several eminent Islamized Copts in this period who occupied the most important positions in the government of Egypt. They are listed by the Muslim names to which they changed after their conversion. Their names are found in the obituaries of the annals of the chronicler Ibn Iyas. The following is a list of these names, each of which was followed by the epithet al-Qibti (the Copt) in spite of their Islamization. (See PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES OF COPTS IN LATE MEDIEVAL EGYPT.)
- Al Sahib Sharaf al-Din Yahya ibn Sani’ah al-Qibti
- Al-Qadi ‘Abd al-Karim ibn Abi al-Fadl Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Qibti
- Al-Qadi Zayn al-Din ‘Abd al-Qadir ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al- Ji‘an al-Qibti
- Sharaf al-Din Musa ibn Yusuf al-Qibti
- Al-Qadi ‘Alam al-Din Shakir ibn al-Ji‘an al-Qibti al-Dumyati
- Abu al-Baqa’ ibn al-Ji‘an al Qibti
- Al-Qadi Sharaf al-Din Yahya ibn al-Ji‘an al-Qibti
Apparently most of them attained the ministerial position of vizier in the sultan’s administration, and Ibn Iyas makes special mention of ‘Alam al-Din Shakir for his profound knowledge, his humility, and the high regard in which he was held by the sultans. He was the founder of the mosque in the region of Birkat al-Ratl, and he lived to be a centenarian (1368-1477).
Michael was buried in Cairo at the Church of Babylon al-Daraj.
- Ibn Iyas, Muhammad ibn Ahmad. Bada’i‘ al-Zuhur fi Waqa’i‘ al- Duhur. 5 vols. Cairo, 1960.
- Lane-Poole, S. History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1901.
- ___. The Mohammadan Dynasties. Paris, 1925.
SUBHI Y. LABIB