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St Mark’s gospel journey took him famously to Egypt where his preaching paved the way for Christian belief and eventually the forming of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In Coptic icons this journey is usually suggested by a ship on a sea and the lighthouse of Alexandria in the background. He is shown with a red himation to reference his brutal martyrdom and always holds a gospel book. In most icons there will usually be a reference to a lion or lion-headed cherubim which, in early patristic writing, links him to one of the 4 cherubim seen by Ezekiel and by St John in the book of Revelation. These 4 cherubim are likened in early homilies to the 4 gospel writers and are therefore paired with them in Orthodox iconography. Coincidentally there is also an old tale recounted by Severus Ebn-El-Mokafa telling of an incident where St Mark was travelling with his father and was met by lions. In his faith, he prayed for deliverance and the two lions immediately fell dead. As a result St Mark’s father believed in the Lord Jesus. The angel in the icon descends symbolically to place a crown of martyrdom on St Mark's head in acknowlegement of the bloody death he would endure for Christ's mission. 

St Mark

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