MINA I, or Menas I
The forty-seventh patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (767-774). Mina was a monk of Dayr Anba Maqar, when he became associated with and acted as a disciple of his predecessor, KHA’IL I, who was a monk in the same monastery. The bishops and the clergy of Alexandria, together with the Coptic archons, do not seem to have had any trouble in coming to full unanimity about the election of the monk Mina as the worthy successor of Kha’il, and they faced no difficulty in securing the governor’s approval, which was followed by Mina’s peaceful consecration. The state of the Copts during his reign was totally different from what it had been under his predecessors. Peace and prosperity seemed to return to Egypt, and the community of the faithful suffered no extraordinary financial imposts.
Nevertheless, that peaceful atmosphere was disturbed by a strange internal incident, so different from the former persecutions that the community had suffered from the ruling class. A monk named Butrus, of the same monastery as Mina, was an ambitious but vicious person. He asked the patriarch to make him a bishop, but his request was refused because he was considered unfit for that ecclesiastical office.
So he withdrew from his monastery and went to Antioch, where he submitted false patriarchal letters of introduction to the Antiochene patriarch, George, who welcomed him as a representative of his colleague and brother, the patriarch of Alexandria. He further wrote to the bishops of his diocese to treat the visitor kindly and offer him all the help he might need. Consequently, Butrus was able to collect great amounts of money, which enabled him to reach the capital and meet the caliph, to whom he reported that the patriarch of Alexandria was a magician and able to transform with chemical ruses much metal into gold, to be used in filling his churches with gold sacramental cups.
The Abbasid caliph, Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur (754-775), was hard-pressed for funds and listened to the impostor, who prevailed upon him to issue a decree making Butrus patriarch instead of Mina, on the condition that he would cede the accumulated gold of the church to the caliph. Armed with that decree, he returned to Egypt and requested its governor, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hudayj (769-772), to carry out the caliphal order.
Consequently, Ibn Hudayj summoned Anba Mina and confronted him with the royal decree, which he meekly accepted. But the congregated bishops were furious and refused to accept the impostor, who had openly abused Anba Mina. Two of the bishops, Mina of Sanabu and Anba Moeses, bishop of Awsim, pounced on Butrus, seized his cap, and threw it down. They reported to the governor that their churches had only glass and wooden utensils for sacramental use and that they possessed no gold or silver utensils, since they had already been plundered by former governors in times of persecution.
Apparently the matter ended when Butrus threatened the governor that he would take his complaint to the higher authority of the caliph’s administration in the capital, because of the governor’s rather lenient treatment of the patriarchal party. This infuriated the governor, who arrested Butrus and placed him in prison for three years, during which time the situation was again normalized and Mina could exercise his patriarchal authority in peace. Evidently, Butrus was freed and returned to his native village, where he was rejected and disowned by his own family for his treachery.
Mina seems to have spent the remaining period of his reign in peace and harmony with the Islamic administration of the country, and the Copts in general did not suffer from the persecutions and financial imposts that had been customary under the rule of former governors. He died peacefully in 774, after the completion of seven years on the throne of Saint Mark.
- Hanotaux, G., ed. Histoire de la nation égyptienne, 7 vols. Paris, 1931-1940.
- Lane-Poole, S. A History of Egypt in the Middle Ages. London, 1901.
- . The Mohammadan Dynasties. Paris, 1925.
SUBHI Y. LABIB