MARQOS I (d. 1530)
He belonged to a group of Coptic prelates that had come to Ethiopia in 1481 with Abuna Yeshaq II and was supposed to assume the duties of metropolitan after Yeshaq's death, since he was his principal coadjutor. Thus, when Yeshaq II died near the beginning of the sixteenth century, there was no vacancy in the see, for Marqos I succeeded him immediately. For a long while, historians did not
understand this order of succession, mainly because Francisco Alvares, chaplain of the first Portuguese mission in Ethiopia (1520-
1526), did not explain this matter clearly in his account, of which one phrase was translated into English as follows: "Whilst we were
here the Abuna Ya‘qob died, to whom this one who is now living succeeded." Rossini, however, has shown that this phrase should in
fact be understood to mean that during Alvares' sojourn in Ethiopia, the Coptic bishop Ya‘qob died, who was coadjutor to Marqos and was supposed to succeed Marqos, but did not do so because he died first.
There is little information about this metropolitan in the Ethopian documents. According to the Life of Marha Krestos (d. 1497), ninth abbot of Dabra Libanos, Marqos was present at the transference of the relics of Saint Takla Haymanot, founder of this monastery, but this occurred before Marqos acceded to the supreme throne. According to the Liber Axumae, Marqos I died in 1522 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1529-1530). Thus, he lived in Ethiopia half a century and held the position of metropolitan for approximately three decades, to a very advanced age. In fact, he considered himself to be more than a hundred years old.
There is, however, more information about Marqos I in the account of Alvares, who had many meetings with him. While noting the inconveniences caused by the fact that in all Ethiopia the metropolitan alone had the right to ordain deacons and priests, Alvares described the ceremony during which Marqos I ordained 2,537 priests all at the same time and in which he was thus obligated to limit himself to a very short allocution warning the priesthood against the sins of bigamy and concubinage. Further, Marqos I recounted to Alvares that in 1508 he had contributed to the success of Queen Elleni, widow of Negus Zar’a Ya‘qob, in having the eleven-year-old son of Negus Na’od, Lebna Dengel, elected to the royal throne. This she achieved by removing all others who had a claim thereto. On 12 January 1521, Alvares saw Marqos I at the ceremony of the transference of the bones of Na’od. On this occasion the metropolitan seemed to be so old that two men had to sustain him by his arms. Marqos I also told Alvares that before the
arrival of Abuna Yeshaq II in 1481, the church in Ethiopia had remained without a metropolitan for some twenty-three years. Alvares was acquainted with the ECCAGE, the title reserved for the abbot of Dabra Libanos, head of all the Ethiopian monks, who related that he was a converted Muslim and had been ordained by Abuna Marqos, "who regarded him as his own son." This high prelate was Enbaqom, eleventh abbot of Dabra Libanos, well known in Ethiopian literary history for his translations from the Arabic.
Finally, three delicate questions remain concerning this metropolitan. First, in 1509, Queen Elleni, the guardian of Lebna Dengel, had written a letter to Manuel I, king of Portugal, in which she proposed an alliance against the Mamluk power in the Red Sea. The letter stated that this overture had been made with the blessings of Marqos I, and certain authors (e.g., Jean Aubin) find in this statement proof that Marqos I thought that he could resolve the problems besetting the church in Ethiopia by joining with the church of Rome. However, this view seems excessive, for the metropolitan must have known of the doctrinal differences separating the two churches. It is therefore difficult to believe that in 1509, with no concrete threat present, Marqos I was thinking of allying himself
with the Catholic church.
Second, in 1535, Joao Bermudez, the physician of the first Portuguese mission to Ethiopia, appeared in Rome. Ten years earlier, when the mission had returned to Europe, Bermudez had chosen to remain in Ethiopia at the request of Lebna Dengel. Now Bermudez related that Lebna Dengel had asked Marqos I, who was then on his deathbed, to name Bermudez "patriarch" (i.e.,
metropolitan of Ethiopia). Marqos I complied with this request and even conferred all the holy orders upon Bermudez, who accepted the investiture, providing that the pope in Rome confirm it. Lebna Dengel then directed Bermudez to go to Rome to make "an act of
obedience" to the pope. According to Bermudez, Pope Paul III (1534-1549) then confirmed him as metropolitan of the church in
Ethiopia. The subsequent vicissitudes of Bermudez in Ethiopia concern the bishopric of Yosab I, but nonetheless it must be remembered that the supposed elevation of Bermudez by Marqos I is considered a fabrication.
The third question involves Alvares' claim that Marqos I, aware of the vagaries of the church in Ethiopia, admired the faith of the
Portuguese mission to the point that he declared that, thanks to the Portuguese, the Ethiopians would not miss "returning to the truth of the Gospel." From this, certain writers have deduced that Marqos I had at least wished to have his own succession governed by the Roman church. However, as Lanfranco Ricci has observed, while there are Portuguese texts favorable to the Catholic position, such as Alvares' account, there are also Ethiopian texts opposing it, such as the Life of ‘Enbaqom, according to which this abbot argued with Alvares and "converted him to the orthodox faith of the Jacobites," which must be read with great care.
Thus, the successor to Marqos I was not Joao Bermudez but rather Yosab I, the Coptic bishop who arrived in Ethiopia after the end of the great Islamic invasion led by Grann, "the Left-Handed One."
YOSAB I (d. c. 1559)
Yosab I must be considered the successor of Metropolitan Marqos I although this succession took place after a long vacancy of the Ethiopian episcopal throne because of complex circumstances. At the death of Abuna Marqos I (1530), Ethiopia passed through a
severe crisis that had begun in 1527 with the Islamic invasion commanded by the imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim, called al-Ghazi (the
Warrior Champion) by the Muslims and Graññ (the Left-Handed One) by the Ethiopians. In 1525, Joao Bermudez, the physician of the first Portuguese mission to Ethiopia, had chosen to stay in Ethiopia at the request of Negus Lebna Dengel when the mission
returned to Europe. Ten years later in Rome, Bermudez recounted that Lebna Dengel had asked Marqos I, who was then on his
deathbed, to name Bermudez as "patriarch" (i.e., metropolitan of Ethiopia. Marqos I acceded to this request by conferring all the holy orders upon Bermudez, who accepted the investiture, providing that the pope in Rome confirm it. Lebna Dengel then directed Bermudez to go first to Rome to make an act of obedience to the pope and then to Portugal, a country with which Ethiopia had relations. According to Bermudez, Pope Paul III (1534-1549) did confirm him as metropolitan of Ethiopia. The majority of historians reject Bermudez' story, first, because no Ethiopian metropolitan ever had the power to name his successor and, second, because no document has ever been discovered to prove this supposed elevaton of Bermudez by Pope Paul III. However that may be, Bermudez did go from Rome to Lisbon, where he solicited Portuguese aid for Ethiopia in its fight against the Muslims. Thus, in 1540, Bermudez joined with the famous Portuguese military expedition to Ethiopia, which was to bring death to Grann (21 February 1541) and put an end to the Muslim invasion. After the departure of the Portuguese troops, Bermudez remained in Ethiopia and asked
Lebna Dengel's successor, Negus Galawdewos, to join the Catholic church. Far fromacquiescing to this request, the negus hastened to ask the Copticpatriarchate for a new metropolitan, whom Bermudez sought in vainto oppose until 1556, when he was forced to return to Portugal,where he died fourteen years later.
The new metropolitan was named Yosab. His arrival is recorded by two documents of the Liber Axumae, as occurring in 1539 of the
Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1546-1547). However, information about this metropolitan is rather scarce in the Ethiopian documents. The
so-called Abridged Chronicle does not mention him at all, whereas the chronicle of Galawdewos mentions him but once, stating that
toward Easter in the eighth year of this negus's reign (1548), Yosab I blessed Galawdewos, who was departing to lead a military
expedition against the pagan peoples living in the west of the country, near the frontiers of Damot. As for the Liber Axumae, it
records Yosab's name in a confirmation act of a fief, donated in 1546 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1553-1554).
The Liber Axumae also records one other important fact. In 1551-1552, a Coptic bishop by the name of Petros arrived in Ethiopia. A Portuguese source confirms and adds this information: Petros was supposed to be Yosab's coadjutor and succeed him upon his death. The chronicle of Negus Minas (1559-1563) in fact confirms that P et ros did succeed Yosab I. However, the date of this
succession is not known and can only be approximately determined. In the Liber Axumae, the last document in which Yosab's name is
mentioned is dated A.D. 1553-1554, while the first document naming Metropolitan Petros II dates from 1552 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1559-1560). It may be deduced thereby that Yosab I died near the end of Negus Galawdewos' reign and that the episcopal throne was immediately occupied by Petros II.
Further, it must be noted that Yosab I is also cited in the chronicle of Negus Sarsa Dengel (1563-1597), who considered him as the predecessor of metropolitan Marqos II. This, however, is probably the result of an error on the part of the chronicler, who seems to have confused Yosab I with Petros II.
PETROS II (d. 1570)
Petros was the successor of Abuna Yosab I, after having been his coadjutor. The Liber Axumae notes the arrival in Ethiopia of a
Coptic bishop named Petros in 1554 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1551-1552). This information is confirmed by a Portuguese source, which states that the Coptic prelate who arrived in Ethiopia in 1551 was supposed to be the coadjutor of Abuna Yosab I and should succeed him upon his death. The exact date of this succession is unknown, but it must have occurred near the end of Negus
Galawdewos' reign (d. 1559), for in the Liber Axumae the last document to mention Yosab is dated A.D. 1553-1554, whereas the
first document to mention Petros as metropolitan is dated 1559- 1560. From these data it may be deduced that Petros was named and consecrated by the Coptic patriarch GABRIEL VII (1525-1568).
There is little information about this metropolitan in Ethiopian documents. The chronicle of Galawdewos states that it was Bishop
Petros (not yet metropolitan) who consecrated the ark (tabot) of the famous Church of Tadbaba Maryam during the twelfth year of
Galawdewos' reign (1551-1552). Moreover, the chronicle of Negus Minas states that it was Abuna Petros II who celebrated the religious marriage of this king.
There is no other information about this metropolitan, and even the date of his death can only be deduced from the documents
available. According to the chronicle of Negus Sarsa Dengel, after the death of Abuna Yosab I, which occurred in the eighth year of
Sarsa Dengel's reign (1570), the negus received a new metropolitan named Marqos (II), who arrived in Ethiopia during the fourteenth year of his reign (1576). However, this text obviously contains an error, which must be corrected. The predecessor of Marqos II was Petros II (not Yosab I, who died around 1559). But from this text it can be deduced that Petros II died in 1570 and that his successor was Marqos II.
MARQOS II (d. c. 1588)
There is little information about this successor to Abuna Petros II in the Ethiopian documents, but the date of his arrival in the country is known. The chronicle of Sarsa Dengel reports that after the death of Abuna Yosab I, which occurred in the eighth year of
Sarsa Dengel's reign (1570), the negus succeeded in having the Coptic patriarch John XIV (1570-1585) send a new metropolitan
named Marqos (II), who arrived during the fourteenth year of his reign (1576). The chronicler adds that this was a very happy year,
for the negus had just conquered Muhammad, king of Adal, a date confirmed in Arabic sources, and that after seizing power in A.H.
980/A.D. 1572-1573, Muhammad ibn Nasir ibn ‘Uthman, sultan of Adal, undertook a military expedition against Sarsa Dengel in which
he was conquered and killed near the end of 1575 or the beginning of 1576. The date of Marqos' arrival is also confirmed by an
Ethiopian codex in the National Library, Paris, whose Explicit announces that the manuscript was completed during the seventh year of the episcopate of Abuna Marqos II and the twentieth year of Sarsa Dengel's reign (1582). The arrival of this metropolitan in 1576
must thus be considered as certain.
Although Marqos II is likewise mentioned in a document from the Liber Axumae, there is no information extant concerning his episcopate, an omission probably due to the rather dishonorable termination of his episcopate. Around 1624, after Negus Susenyos
decided to join the Roman church, he issued a manifesto in which he set forth not only his reasons for joining this church but also
reproaches concerning the deplorable conduct of certain metropolitans. In particular, Susenyos declared: "The Negus Malak- Sagad [i.e., Sarsa Dengel] has shown that Marqos [II] became guilty of sexual delights that neither the ears dare hear nor the mouth
pronounce, delights of such a nature as to make God rain fire from heaven. Therefore, Malak-Sagad stripped this metropolitan of his
episcopal dignity, deprived him of his holdings, and sent him to the island of Daqq in Lake Tana, where he died an evil death."
There is no document indicating the date of this dismissal, which, however, must have occurred between 1582 (the date contained in the above-mentioned manuscript in the National Library, Paris) and 1588 (the approximate date when the position of metropolitan was filled by another Coptic prelate).
The successor of Marqos II was Krestodolu I.
KRESTODOLU I (fl. late sixteenth century)
There is little historical information available about the successor to Abuna Marqos II, probably because of the brevity of his episcopate as well as accusations of deplorable conduct made against him. Krestodolu I is not mentioned in the Abridged Chronicle of the rulers of Ethiopia nor in the chronicle of Sarsa Dengel. However, he is cited by the Liber Axumae in the texts of two acts of concession of fiefs donated by this negus. In the first act, Krestodolu's name is mentioned with that of the negus' mother, Queen Sellus Khayla, widow of Negus Minas, who upon her marriage had taken the name of Admas Mogasa. This furnishes an important chronological landmark, for, according to the Abridged Chronicle, this queen mother died on 21 Hamle 1586 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 25 July 1594). In the second feudal act, Krestodolu's name is cited with that of Tomas, nebura ed (chief) of Axum, who is known to have held this post around 1588.
There is absolutely no information about his episcopate in Ethiopia, if one excludes the accusations against him made by Negus Susenyos (Seltan Sagad) in the manifesto that he issued around 1624 to announce his reasons for joining the Catholic church. Among the reproaches directed against certain metropolitans, Susenyos wrote as follows: "As for Abuna Krestodolu I, successor of Marqos II, contrary to the customs of a metropolitan, he kept several concubines, a fact that was well known by all those living at the time, of whom some are still alive." It is not known, however, if this accusation caused Krestodolu's dismissal or whether his episcopate came to an end with his natural death.
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