The eighty-third patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (1340-1348). Peter (Butrus) ibn Dawud was originally a monk of the Monastery of Saint Macarius (DAYR ANBA MAQAR); then he was chosen as abbot of DAYR SHAHRAN. He was unanimously nominated for the patriarchate one year after the decease of BENJAMIN II, his predecessor. Nothing is known about his secular life before he joined Saint Macarius, but he distinguished himself in his monastic life with all the qualities that fitted him for this high ecclesiastical office.
In 1340, therefore, his election and consecration at the ancient church of HARAT ZUWAYLAH, which was the seat of the patriarchate at the time, met with no opposition. He acceded to the throne of Saint Mark during the third tenure of the Mamluk sultan al-Nasir Muhhammad ibn Qalawun (1310-1341), when the earlier wave of Coptic persecutions had begun to subside. The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS briefly states that his times were relatively peaceful and secure; but the Islamic sources have a fair amount of information on details pertaining to his patriarchate.
Peter was also a contemporary of Sayf al-Din Abu Bakr (1341), al-Ashraf Kujuk (1342), al-Nasir Ahmad (1342), al-Salih Isma‘il (1342-1345), al-Kamil Sha‘ban (1346), al-Muzaffar Hajji (1347), and al-Nasir Hasan (1347-1350). The frequent succession of sultans is indicative of the unsettled state of the government in Egypt. Al- MAQRIZI, the eminent fifteenth-century Islamic chronicler, records that some Coptic churches in the capital were pillaged by the mob, while a number of Copts were arrested for unspecified crimes and crucified under the citadel, although some survived and were freed in the end. Another incident took place at the predominantly Coptic district known as Minyat al-Sirij. There, a group of fanatic dervishes forbade the use of wine by the Copts and attacked a member of their congregation before going to a mosque for the Friday prayers.
The infuriated Copts waited for the dervishes outside the mosque and gave them a severe beating, which resulted in a serious fight between Muslims and Christians. The viceroy hastened to the scene and seized a number of the troublemakers, among whom were found regular soldiers whose wages were suspended. Al-Maqrizi states that such incidents became frequent and were prevalent in Upper Egypt and the Sharqiyyah Province, where the marauding Arabs from the Eastern Desert intensified the strife. The economic conditions of the country also worsened the situation with the failure of agriculture and the doubling of the price of cereals.
In 1346, during the reign of al-Kamil Sha‘ban, al-Maqrizi again mentions the arrest and crucifixion of a group of culprits including a Coptic monk. In fact, the times as a whole were marked by corruption and bribery, in addition to profligacy within the sultan’s court, which led to the neglect of the serious business of governance. Matters both in the country and in the church were continuously sliding from bad to worse. The only hope of salvation for this confused administration rested with the lower classes of scribes and tax collectors, who had been the Copts. But with their dismissal from the administration, many of them apostatized to Islam in order to retain their positions.
The Coptic sources are silent on this phase of their history, but the Islamic sources provide us with a multitude of names of those Islamized Copts, who consequently reached the highest posts in the administration. Al-Sahib Amin al-Din Amin al-Mulk Taj al-Riyasah ibn al-Ghannam was thrice a vizier under Sultan al-Ashraf and occupied high positions, not only in Cairo but also at Damascus and Tripoli. His illustrious career was ended by his execution, which was punishment for financial meddling. Another Copt, Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Khatir, married the daughter of the famous al-Nushu’ and became a Muslim under the name Sharaf al-Din ‘Abd al-Wahhab al- Nushu’.
In times of respite, the patriarch was able to prepare the CHRISM at the monastery of Saint Macarius in the presence of a dozen bishops and a number of clergy. After occupying the throne of Saint Mark for six years, six months, and six days, Peter died peacefully, and his body was interred in DAYR AL-HABASH in Cairo.
- 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