from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

IN size and importance, Alexandria in Egypt was the second city of the Roman Empire. It was a centre not only of Hellenism but also of Semitism, with the largest community of Jews in any single city of the ancient world ; and it has therefore sometimes been found surprising that St.Paul never preached there. The foundation of the Church in Alexandria is traditionally ascribed to St.Mark, but we have no reliable knowledge of its early history. Gnostic teachers, such as Basilides and Heracleon, were active in the city in the mid-2nd cent. but its fame as a centre of Christian thought dates from the end of that century with the work of Clement and Origen.

Its importance increased during the 4th and 5th cents., especially under its bishops Athanasius and Cyril. The Council of Nicaea (325) assigned to Alexandria a place of honour second only to Rome, and superior to Antioch, but its importance was diminished by the rise of Constantinople, which was granted precedence over Alexandria by the Councils of Constantinople (381) and Chalcedon (451). The great majority of Christians in Egypt supported the Monophysite schisms, and by the time Egypt passed under the Persians (616) and then under the Arabs (642), the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria had lost most of its influence. At the division between E. and W. Alexandria remained on the side of Constantinople. Besides the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, the head of the Coptic Church also has the title ‘Patriarch of Alexandria’; and since the 13th cent. there has been a Latin Patriarch of Alexandria, but he is purely titular.

M. Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, 2 (Paris, 1740), cols. 329–640. J. M. Neale, A History of the Holy Eastern Church: The Patriarchate of Alexandria (2 vols., 1847). C. A. Papadopoulos, Ἱστορία τῆς Ἐκκλησίας Ἀλεξανδρείας (62–1934) (Alexandria, 1935). T. Orlandi, Storia della Chiesa di Alessandria (Coptic texts with Italian tr. and comm.; Milan, 1968 ff.). C. Haas, Alexandria in Late Antiquity (Baltimore and London, 1997). J. Faivre in DHGE 2 (1914), cols. 289–369, s.v. ‘Alexandrie’. W. Schubart and A. Calderini in RAC 1 (1950), cols. 271–83, s.v.




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