The Coptic Orthodox faith is the main denomination of Christianity in Egypt. The Copts are the original Egyptians, and the word “Copt” itself is derived from the Greek word “Aegyptus” which means Egypt. Copts are the descendants of the ancient Egyptians and are considered one of the most anthropologically pure races in the world.
Christianity was brought into Egypt during the first century AD by St Mark, who was also one of the four gospel writers. This was during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero and many native Egyptians instantly embraced the Christian faith, as Egyptians had always been religiously minded. Christianity had spread through Egypt within half a century and in 68 AD St Mark was martyred in the city of Alexandria. His body is now buried at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.
The early Coptic church suffered considerable amounts of persecution under the reign of Roman rulers up until the reign of Emperor Constantine in the forth century AD. This was because Christianity had spread so rapidly that the Romans had to exercise persecution in an attempt to suppress the growth of the religion, which to the Romans, defied the divinity of the Emperor.
The most intense era of persecution took place under the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD), the persecution was so severe that it was decided that the end of these years should mark the start of the Coptic Calendar known as Anno Martyrum (A.M.) or the year of the Martyrs. It was in the midst of this ruthless execution and torture that Egypt’s Church flourished beyond recognition and the third century saw the Coptic Church with a great hierarchy ranging from the Patriarch in Alexandria down to the modest priest and the monks who lived out in the Eastern and Western Deserts.