Egypt’s ancient history is famous and is well documented. The Bible is no exception. Egypt became a representative of the “Gentiles” (non-Jews) to whom Christ came to establish His Church and form His new people. Thus Isaiah prophesied saying, “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Isaiah 19:19) and “Blessed is Egypt My people” (Isaiah 19:25). Egypt also took the blessing of the Holy Family after the birth of Christ when Herod sought to kill the Child, fulfilling the prophesy, “Behold, the burden of Egypt, the Lord rides upon a swift cloud, He shall come to Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence.” (Isaiah 19:1). The Holy Family resided in Egypt until such time as was safe for them to return, after the death of Herod, fulfilling the prophesy of Hosea, “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (Hosea 11:1).
In the 1st Century, between the years 42-61 A.D., St. Mark the Evangelist arrived in Egypt. Upon his arrival, he went to a cobbler named Anianus to repair his sandle. As Anianus was working on the sandle, he accidentally pierced his hand and cried aloud “Eos Theos” or “O One God”. On hearing this, St. Mark rejoiced and after miraculously healing the man’s wound, took courage and began to preach to Anianus who took the Apostle to his home to preach and baptise him and his family. The gospel-writer continued to evanglise to the Egyptian people who did not take long to convert. Thus, the Church of Alexandria was established and St. Mark became its bishop. The pagan majority persecuted the church and St. Mark for turning people away from idols, leading to the martyrdom of St. Mark in 68 A.D. Despite his martyrdom, the Church of Alexandria grew swiftly and 117 patriarchs have succeeded St. Mark to this day.
His icon is commonly depicted with his Gospel, a lion and Egyptian landmarks such as the lighthouse of Alexandria. The lion is a representation of the story of St. Mark and his father who were under attack by a lion and lioness. St. Mark in his faith prayed to the Lord to protect them and to strike the lions; his prayer was answered and upon the two beasts dropping dead, his father confessed in the Lord Jesus Christ.