|Detail from the central lunette of the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice showing|
the translation of Saint Mark's relics, ca. 13th century AD.
A somewhat later tradition, bolstered by the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius and On Illustrious Men of Saint Jerome, makes Saint Mark the founder of the Church in Alexandria, the second great metropolis of the Roman Empire. In the legendary Acts of Saint Mark, probably written in the mid-4th century AD, he is portrayed as a martyr for the faith. Following is an excerpt from this work which also supplies us with the date of his death:
It happened [that] our blessed feast of Passover fell on the holy Sunday, Pharmouthi 29th, from the eighth Kalend of May, i.e., April 24th, which coincided with the festive procession of Serapis. Finding such an opportune moment, [the pagans] deployed spies. They fell upon [Saint Mark] saying prayers of the divine offering. And seizing him, they threw a mooring rope around his neck and dragged him, saying, “Let us drag the antelope to [the places of the] Boukalou.”
But while the holy Mark was being dragged along, he offered up thankgiving to the savior Christ, saying, “I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that I have been counted worthy to suffer these things on behalf of your name.” And his flesh was falling to the ground, and the stones were stained with his blood.
|This painting by Jacopo Tintoretto is identified|
as the bringing of St. Mark's Body to Venice.
But it may in fact be a representation of the
rescue of his body after his martyrdom.
The full account may be read at Roger Pearse’s blog here. It may be noted that this type of mob violence was apparently not abnormal behavior in ancient Alexandria.
|The Doge of Venice kneels before a|
winged lion—the symbol of St. Mark.
Getting the relics out of Alexandria was tricky business, however. Not only would the Christian community be outraged, but the Muslim lords had absolutely forbidden the removal of relics from the city. To get around the first problem, the conspirators replaced the body of Saint Mark with that of Saint Claudia which was apparently nearby. To get by the inspectors at the port, they concealed the corpse under slabs of pork—a meat considered unclean to Muslims.
|Muslim customs officials are repulsed at the sight and smell of pork in this mosaic|
from one of the lunettes on the facade of St. Mark's Basilica, Venice.
[The above account was summarized from Geary: Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages - Revised Edition]