ANIANUS, the immediate successor as patriarch (68-85) to Saint
MARKI the Evangelist and his first convert to the new religion in
the region of Alexandria. When Mark I entered Rakotis, a suburb of
Alexandria, following his journey from Cyrene in the Pentapolis, the
strap of his sandal broke off. He found a cobbler named Anianus to
repair it. While working on the sandal, an awl slipped and pierced
Anianus' hand. He then cried "Heis ho Theos," the Alexandrian
Greek for "God is one," an utterance that opened the way for Mark
to preach monotheistic Christianity to him while miraculously
healing his wound in the name of Jesus.
It is difficult to know whether Anianus was Jewish or a pagan
native under the influence of the opulent Jewish community and its
monotheistic teachings in Alexandria. Consequently, Mark was
invited to Anianus' home, where he taught his family the Gospel and
baptized them all. This proved to be the beginning of a rich harvest
of other converts in this area, which provoked the pagan citizens to
defend their local gods against the intruder.
Thus Mark decided to disappear for the time being from the
scene of imminent strife. He ordained Anianus as bishop, together
with three presbyters and seven deacons, to watch over the spiritual
welfare of the flock during his absence. He was away for two years
and is said to have gone to Rome, Aquileia, and the Pentapolis,
performing miracles and baptizing an increasing number of
converts. He returned to Alexandria to find that the new faithful had
multiplied and were able to build their own church at Bucalis on the
shore of the eastern harbor—the Portus Magnus of the Ptolemies.
The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS describes that place as "the
Cattle-Pasture, near the sea, beside a rock from which stone is
hewn" (Vol. 1, pt. 1, p. 145 ).
After Mark's martyrdom on the 30th of the Coptic month of
Baramudah, the second day after Easter, which happened to be the
same day as the festival of the Alexandrian god Serapis, Anianus
assumed the leadership of the nascent church as its second patriarch.
He remained in this capacity for seventeen years, six months, and
nine days, during which the believers in Christ increased in numbers
and he ordained new priests and deacons for them. It is not known
whether other churches were built in addition to Bucalis, but we
must assume that most of the missionary work was limited to
Alexandria and that it was conducted secretly to avoid the hostility
of the pagan population. At any rate, the new patriarch survived the
rule of the Roman emperors Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius,
Vespasian, and Titus. During the reign of Domitian (81-96), he died
in his bed, probably in 83 or 85, and was laid to rest next to Saint
Mark in Bucalis.
The Western view that Anianus was the first patriarch of the
Coptic church is denied by the Copts, who place him as the second,
insisting that their first patriarch was Saint Mark, the founder of
their church. The official church view is the one adopted throughout
AZIZ S. ATIYA
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.