Saint Copres

SAINT COPRES

A monk and martyr. The Greek Synaxarion gives information at two dates about a martyr-monk by the name of Copres, who is named with another monk and a soldier called Alexander. It is not said where they at first led the ascetic life, and H. Delehaye, in “Les Martyrs d’Egypte” (1922, esp. p. 90), advanced the opinion that these martyrs had been assimilated to the monks Copres and Patermuthius of Chapter 10 of the HISTORIA MONACHORUM IN AEGYPTO but without adducing proofs for his view; this is therefore only a working hypothesis.

The Copres of the Synaxarion (23 Tut) was an Egyptian monk martyred under the emperor Julian the Apostate, which allows us to locate him chronologically. His notice in the Greek Synaxarion is banal and does not provide any noteworthy details.

The Copres mentioned for his words of wisdom in the Apophthegmata Patrum was a solitary of Scetis (the modern Wadi al-Natrun). There is nothing to suggest attributing the three “sayings” placed under the name Copres to three distinct personages. Since he is connected with discussions relative to the identity of Melchizedek, discussions generally placed at the beginning of the pontificate of THEOPHILUS, he must have lived toward the end of the fourth century. From the words that are attributed to him, it seems that this was a man distinguished by his great simplicity and a profound humility.

The Copres of the Historia monachorum was met by pilgrims in Upper Egypt in almost the same period as the solitary of Scetis. He professed to be the disciple of a deceased “elder,” whose deeds and exploits he recounted. He was, it seems, a priest, which was not common among the hermits, and of an advanced age (nearly ninety) when the pilgrims found him, and he was the superior of fifty other hermits. It was from him that the pilgrims learned of the existence of an elder called Patermuthius, a former thief who had been converted and had become one of the of the martyr mentioned above. Copres also made known the “brilliant achievements” of other solitaries, such as Sourous, Isaiah, Paul, Anoup, and Helle. Thanks to him, his visitors were able to describe in detail the life and actions, sometimes miraculous, of these “fathers of the desert.” Their stories are sometimes tinged with magical practices like the “desmos” charm, a circle traced in the sand, with which Helle surrounded a place to protect it from the demons.

  • Delehaye, H. “Les Martyrs d’Egypte.” Analecta Bollandiana 40 (1922):5-154, 299-364.
  • Gibson, M. D. Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Convent of St. on Mount Sinai. Studia Sinaitica 3. London, 1894.
  • Graf, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes-chrétiens conservés au Caire. Studi e testi 63. City, 1934.
  • Ward, B. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. London, 1981.

RENÉ-GEORGES COQUIN