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The saint who carried water to the Last Supper

A winged lion in a stained-glass window symbolises St Mark the Evangelist

Mark the Evangelist is traditionally thought to be the interpreter of the Apostle Peter, who went on to write the Gospel of Mark, founded the Church of Africa and became the Bishop of Alexandria.

According to the New Testament theologian William Lane an “unbroken tradition” identifies Mark the Evangelist with John Mark and John Mark as the cousin of Barnabas. This identification means that Mark is identified as the man who carried water to the house where the Last Supper took place or the man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested.

In the first year of Herod Agrippa’s reign over Judaea (AD 41) the king killed James, son of Zebedee, and arrested Peter, planning to kill him after Passover. Peter was saved miraculously by angels and escaped (Acts 12:1-19). Peter travelled to Antioch, then through Asia Minor and arrived in Rome in the second year of Emperor Claudius’s reign. At some point, Peter met Mark and adopted him as his travel companion and interpreter.

Mark the Evangelist recorded the sermons of Peter, which became the Gospel according to St Mark, before he left for Alexandria in the third year of Claudius in AD 49. He founded the Church of Alexandria and became the first bishop. He is recognised as the founder of Christianity in Africa. It is believed that Mark was martyred in AD 68. His feast day is April 25 and his symbol is the winged lion. In 828 relics believed to be the body of St Mark were stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants and taken to Venice.

In 1063, during the construction of a new basilica in Venice, St Mark’s relics could not be found. According to tradition, in 1094 the saint revealed the location of his relics by extending an arm from a pillar. They were placed in a sarcophagus in the basilica.

In June 1968 Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria sent an official delegation to Rome to receive a relic of St Mark from Pope Paul VI. The delegation consisted of 10 metropolitans and bishops, seven of whom were Coptic and three Ethiopian, and three prominent Coptic lay leaders.