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St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Egypt has colorful past

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 16th, 2011
Catholic Online (

St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt, has a colorful history dipped in intrigue from Christendom's earliest days. The cathedral is the seat of the Pope of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The cathedral is reputed to stand on the site of the church founded by St. Mark the Evangelist, the author of the second Gospel in 60 AD. St. Mark the Evangelist has been connected with the city of Alexandria, and Egypt since the earliest Christian tradition. Coptic Christians believe he arrived in Alexandria around 60 AD and stayed for about seven years.

Mark converted many to Christianity during this time and performed many miracles. He is considered the founder of the church in Alexandria and the first Bishop of Alexandria. St. Mark was arrested during a festival of Serapis in 68 AD, and according to tradition was martyred by being dragged through the streets. He was buried under the church he had founded.

In 828, the body of St. Mark was stolen from the Alexandrian church by Venetians to be enshrined in the grand new St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.

However -- the head of the St. Mark remained in Alexandria and every newly-appointed Patriarch of Alexandria began his service with holding the holy head of St. Mark in his lap, changing its cloth shroud.

The head of St. Mark was moved around a great deal over the centuries, and has been lost for over 250 years. Some of the relics from the body of St. Mark, however, were returned to Alexandria from Rome in 1968.

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