A RARE PICTURE OF COPTIC PATRIARCH JOHN (YOHANNES) VIII [1300-1320 AD] صورة نادرة للأنبا يوأنس ٨ البطرك ٨٠ ; ١٣٠٠ – ١٣٢٠ م
I would like to present my readers with this rare picture of Pope John VIII, the 80th Coptic Patriarch, who sat on the Episcopal Throne of St. Mark in 1300-1320 AD. This picture is taken from an Ethiopian manuscript, depicting Pope John VIII writing a letter or manuscript. The Ethiopian manuscript that contains the image is found in the Metropolitan Library in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is thought to be from the 17th century.
No one is sure if this is a copy of an earlier original or a later depiction of the Patriarch from imagination. The picture shows the Pope in strange headgear, dress and shoes, all in yellow-brown. Pope John VIII lived at the horrible times of al-Malik al-Nasir Muhammad ben Qalawun [2nd reign (1299-1309) and 3rd reign (1309-1340)] and the short-lived reign of Baibars al-Jashnakir (1309). These were times of severe persecutions of the Copts, which inaugurated the decline in their numbers, strength and culture. The Ethiopians were followers of the Coptic Church, and this got stronger with the ascension to power of the new Solomonian line. Two Ethiopian Emperors reigned in Ethiopia when John VIII was Coptic Patriarch: Weldem Ar’ed (1299-1314) and Amda Seyon I (1314-1344). We do not have much evidence of correspondence between the Coptic Patriarchate and the Ethiopian State and clergy during that period. But there is much in Ethiopian manuscripts that can help us in finding about that important period, and the relationship between the Copts and Ethiopians. One would hope that somebody, ether in Ethiopia or from Egypt, will be able to search Ethiopian libraries in universities, museums, churches and monasteries, and reveal for us the strength of relationship between the two nations during that period and other periods.