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History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria

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The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria[1] is a major historical work of the Coptic Church. It is written in Arabic[2], but draws extensively on Greek and Coptic sources.

It is a compilation said to have been begun by Severus ibn al-Mukaffa[3] and based on earlier biographical sources. It was continued by others including Michael, bishop of Tinnis (11th century, writing in Coptic, covering 880 to 1046), Mawhub ibn Mansur ibn Mufarrig, deacon of Alexandria., and Pope Mark III of Alexandria (for 1131 to 1167)


The first half of the Arabic text known as the Ta'rikh Batarikat al-Kanisah al-Misriyah (transliterated Arabic) was edited and translated into English by B. Evetts under the title History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria. The remainder was published by O.H.E.Burmester with English translation. This work presents a compilation of the history of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria.

The earlier portions of the text are derived mainly from Eusebius and Coptic tradition. But from the 6th century onwards, the biographies grow longer and often seem to derive from documents written by eyewitnesses of the events recorded. The Muslim conquest of Egypt is recorded [4], and a vivid eyewitness account included of the overthrow of the last Ummayad Caliph, Marwan II.

Severus also relates the famous miracle of moving the Mokattam Mountain during the ruling of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz around 975 (as an eyewitness of that period). The complete text has since then been expanded with appendices and continuations running up to 1894. Indeed one unpublished manuscript continues the text until 1923.

Evetts stopped with the 52nd Patriarch, Joseph, who died in 849. Subsequent material was published and translated by various scholars led by O. H. E. Burmester, in Cairo.


In 1713 Eusèbe Renaudot published the Latin translation Historia patriarcharum alexandrinorum jacobitarum. A scholarly Arabic edition was started by Christian Friedrich Seybold (1904).[5]

See also


  • The History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Orthodox Church to 849 AD
  • Johannes Den Heijer (1989), Mawhub ibn Mansur ibn Mufarrig et l'historiographie copto-arabe


  1. Online edition preface:[1]
  2. Arabic title Tarikh Batarikat al-Kanisah al-Misriyah
  3. Now contested by some scholars, cf. Johannes den Heijer, Coptic historiography in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and early Mamluk Periods, Medieval Encounters 2 (1996), pp. 67-98, this is the traditional attribution.
  4. Severus of Al'Ashmunein (Hermopolis), History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic church of Alexandria (1904) Part 2: Peter I - Benjamin I (661 AD). Patrologia Orientalis 1 pp. 383-518 (pp.119-256 of text)
  5. In Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium, reprinted 1962.

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