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Saint Samaan Shoemaker



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Forward by his Holiness Father

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Mattaos the bishop and abbot of the

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Syrian Monastery


The first arabic edition of this book was in 1983, and it was soon sold out because of the important topic the book talks about, which is the miracle of moving the Mokattam mountain and the great spiritual persons spoken of in it; such as the great Pope Abram Ibn Zaraa and Saint Samaan the Tanner.

And now the church of Saint Samaan the Shoemaker in Mokattam

is so kind as to publish a second augmented and revised edition. To this edition a chapter was added dealing with the discovery of the remains of Samaan the Shoemaker.

The book has been made complete by the laborious efforts of the reverend priest fathers of the Saint Samaan church in Mokattam mountain and the efforts of the fellow-ministers in the church.

To all these we acknowledge our debt and render our thanks, hoping that this book will be a cause of blessing and

steadfastness in the orthodox wonder-working faith for all those who read it.

May our holy mother Saint Mary grant us her intercession, and

may our father Saint Abram Ibn Zaraa and the great Saint of faith and the performer of the miracle Samaan the Shoemaker grant us their prayers, together with our honored father H. H. Pope

Shenouda III.

May the blessing of the Lord include us all. Amen.

Bishop Mattaos

The bishop and abbot of the Syrian monastery.











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I                                                       Introduction


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T     The Coptic Orthodox church has immortalized the memory of the

}      miracle of moving the Mokattam mountain, which was performed by Saint Samaan the Tanner, by keeping the three day fast which the church fasted at the time of the miracle. The church has

appended these days to one of the holiest fasts of our church- the fast of the holy Christmas. The duration of the Christmas fast was forty days, but after the three day fast of this miracle was added to

it, the sum total of the Christmas fast became 43 days, starting from November 25. And ending on January 6. of every year. Nevertheless, no one has ever taken the pains to immortalize the

memory of that great saint, through whom the Lord performed this supernatural miracle. Many churches have been built for the

memory of other saints, such as Saint Girgis, saint Mina, saint Antonios, and many others. As for saint Samaan the Tanner, no church was built in his name throughout the previous thousand years, until Providence chose to bring to memory the name of this

saint, which was carried out by building the first church in his name on the Mokattam mountain itself in 1974 under H. H. Pope Shenouda III may God grant him long life.

Isn't it worthy that the whole world, and the Copts of Egypt in particular, should know the biography of this great saint?!!

Here we present this fragrant biography, and the account of the supernatural miracle of moving the Mokattam mountain, together with the miracle of building the Church of Saint Samaan the

Tanner in the Mokattam mountain.

May the blessing of the prayers of this great saint, Samaan the Tanner, the prayers of all the saints, and the prayers of our blessed father Pope Shenouda III be with us all. Amen.

The Church

27.1993 AD November Saturday, Hatur 17. 1710

On the feast of Samaan the Tanner.







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I                                                      CHAPTER 1

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1) The destroying famine.

2) The construction of Cairo.

3) Chaos in Tanis.

4) The settlement of peace.

5) Religious freedom.

6) Handicrafts.

7) The state of the church.


Saint Samaan the Tanner lived towards the end of the tenth century AD. He was contemporary of the Saint bishop Abram Ibn Zaraa the Syrian, who occupied the seat of Mar Markus in 975 AD

and rested in peace in 979 AD.

It is, therefore, preferable to take a passing look at the time during which the saint lived, since the time and the place where we now

live will, whether we like it or not, affect the way we see things, for

the bible says: 'Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Co. 15:33). For the house in which a child grows up

is like the soil that provides not only for his physical needs, but for his spiritual and psychological ones, as well. I wonder if every

father and mother of us realizes the responsibility towards their children that is laid on their shoulders ? Or is it true that concern for the things of this present world; such as food, clothes, and earthly position has become our sole pre- occupation. Yet, the wisest of men throughout the ages has announced, "Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing

was gained under the sun." (Ecc. 2:11).

My Lord, Jesus Christ, I ask You for help for the responsibility and the trust; You have entrusted me with. Let me and my children and

all my household be yours. Let our motto be "But as for me and my household we will serve the Lord." (Jos. 24:15). Lord, answer my prayer and make my reading of this fragrant biography now a blessing, a cause of change in my life, as I take it as my example..












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A severe and overwhelming famine came upon all of Egypt under the reign of the Ikhshidid Empire, namely between AD 934 to AD

968, shortly before the Fatimid Empire was established, under

which the miracle of moving the mountain took place. The miracle took place circa AD 979, so Saint Samaan must have lived through this famine, which sent more than half a million to their early

graves. (1)

Among the causes of this famine was the shortage in the annual inundation of the Nile for three consequent years. Consequently,

epidemics spread out and this large number of people died. Whole

towns vanished, and dioceses just faded out of existence. (2)

These events must have left an impression on the saint's soul and made him renounce pleasure in worldly things- as we shall see.

This was -and is- God's way of dealing with man...

My beloved brother, Has God allowed some painful experiences to happen to you? Has life all around you closed up on you, while

you are passing through its barren wilderness? Have you been unable to bear the heaviness and heat of the day for your human frailty ? Has resentment become your way of life, and have the words of your mouth become murmuring and complaining of the circumstances? Or do you see God in the scene and receive from

Him all the circumstances, knowing that " all things work together for the good of those who love God " (Ro. 8:28)?

My friend, people are divided as their reactions to hard circumstances into three categories: the first murmurs and resents the circumstances, and maybe God himself, while the

second receives them in silence, and the third gives thanks even

in the heated furnace, knowing that God will bring "out of the

eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet" (Jdg.

14:14). This third kind of people learns the lessons, and, therefore, comes out from the fire brighter than before; as Job the prophet of patience said, "When he has tested me, I shall come forth as

gold." (Job 23:10) Of which category are you, and what is your

reaction to the circumstances???

My loving God, I thank You with all my heart for all tribulation and all pain at all times. Grant me to adopt thanksgiving, for all circumstances and under all circumstances, as a way of life, trusting that You are able to use all them to form my life as it pleases You. Give me patience during tribulation and long-

suffering at times of trial. Amen.










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Cairo had been constructed only a short while before the miracle

of moving the mountain took place. As a matter of fact, the present

Cairo (3) is made up of several small old towns that were have

been built in different ages. One of these towns received the name


These old towns are:

(A) Babylon, or the Palace of Wax. (It is now old Cairo.) Was established by the Byzantines.)

(B) Um Danin. Is now in the center of Cairo, where the main train station is.

(C) Al-Fustat. Near Ain Al-Sira. Was established by Amru Ibn Al- As.

(D) Al-Askar. Between Al-Fustat and the Mokattam mountain.

(E) Al-Qata`i. In the vicinity of Al-Askar by Ibn Tulun's mosque. Was established by Ahmad Ibn Tulun.

(F) Cairo. Is the area where Al-Azhar mosque is. Was established

by the Fatimids under Al-Mu'iz Li-Din Illah in AD 969. It was under this same monarch that the miracle of moving the Mokattam mountain occurred, which happened exactly ten years after Cairo was con- structed. As we shall see, there a connection between

the city of Cairo and the miracle of moving the mountain.




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Tanis is the present town of San in the Sharqia Governorate. The chaos that happened in it at the beginning Fatimid reign plucked

the feeling of security from the hearts of the Copts and made them take refuge with God as their only protection in such events. Some extremists had risen against the government and against the

Copts, and announced their independence, while some of them plundered the homes of the Christians and took their women and daughters as booty. Chaos reigned in that city until some Copts, the children of Qashlan by name, were able to contact the government and stop these insurrections. (4).

No doubt that these incidents had a great effect on the souls of the believers, for in calamities hearts are turned towards God and the people's commitment to the church increases.




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After these incidents, and thanks to the wisdom of Al-Mu'iz Li Din






Illah the Fatimid, security was realized in the country, and peace prevailed throughout Egypt.

This was reflected on the souls of the citizens, and the voices of the believers were raised in thanksgiving to God the Prince of

peace for the peace he bestowed on them.




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Al-Mu'iz Li Din Illah the Fatimid, who reigned from AD 969 till the end of AD 979, was a polished politician, besides being a

letterman and a lover of the gatherings in which poetry was recited. He was, as well, fond of religious sciences, which made him invite the Muslim, the Christian, and the Jewish religious

leaders in order to debate before him with all frankness and freedom, and without any anger or contention.

This matter has a direct relationship with the miracle of moving the Mokattam mountain, as we shall see later on.




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The Copts worked in all kinds of crafts and professions; such as carpentry, construction of furniture, smithery and ship making.

They even celebrated mass on the decks of their boats at the ports officially (5), because all the workers, craftsmen, and even the

sailors were Copts.

We shall see, therefore, that Saint Samaan the Tanner worked in

one of these handicrafts, which was tanning the hides of animals.




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Due to the peace that reigned over the country under the Fatimid empire, the Copts neglected the election of a new Patriarch for the church for two years from the death of Pope Mina II in AD 973 till

AD 975.

The bishops and the archdeacons later gathered in the church of Abu Sirga in Old Cairo in order to discuss who was fitting for the patriarchy. Thereupon, a righteous, respected, and pious old man came in, who was known to all of them named Abram Ibn Zaraa

the Syrian. Now this man was also a friend of the Fatimid caliph

Al-Mu'iz Li Din Illah. The multitudes, therefore, elected him unanimously as patriarch in the month of Tuba 687, AD January.

After his ordination as patriarch, he distributed all his possessions






to the poor and the needy, and to the churches and the monasteries. he also forbade simony and opposed an evil habit that prevailed amongst the Christians, namely the possession of concubines.

In general, the church at his time was in a blessed age of spiritual revival.

Lord, I thank You for my beloved Mother the Church, in which You planted me, so that in might be nourished by Your holy word, and grow steadfast in this vineyard which Your right arm has planted. I thank You because You hasten Your word to perform it. I thank

You because You established Your church on the rock and the

gates of Hell shall prevail against it. I thank You for my fathers the saints, the pillars of the church. Teach me to consider the end of their lives and emulate their faith.

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R                                                     CHAPTER 2

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1) His upbringing.

2) His profession.

3) His purity.

4) His abstinence and asceticism.

5) The depth of his fellowship (A man of prayer).

6) His practical service.

7) His amazing humility.

8) His strong faith.

9) His end.


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This saint appeared suddenly on the scene of historical events as shining star, and disappeared just the same way. History does not mention anything about his early upbringing at all, so we do not






know where he was born, or where he was reared up, or who was his father.

But for the will of the Lord that made him appear for the

performing of this miracle and the delivering of this message, we would not have heard about him at all! This proves that there are

many saints for the Lord whom the world does not know. They are

hidden from sight. hasn't this been the case at the time of Elijah the prophet?! Didn't this same prophet say to the Lord, "I am the

only one left." (1 ki 19:10)?! What did the Lord answer him? Did not He say, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and al whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Ki 19:18)?!

How amazing! Seven thousand persons for the Lord, and Elijah himself did not know about them!

The people is not all bad, my beloved brother. Look around you; maybe the Lord will reveal to you many saints, whom you cannot otherwise see.

Saint Samaan the Tanner was one of the obscure saints- hidden away from sight. And even though we know nothing of his birth, yet history asserts he was in Babylon (Old Cairo) during the time

of Pope Abram the Syrian (AD 975-979), which was under Al-Mu'iz

Li Din Illah, the first ruler in the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt.

My dear God, I thank You for the cloud of saints which fills Your beloved church. I thank You because You do not leave yourself without a witness; but rather have children and holy men in every generation. Protect me from the spirit of despair which fought the courageous prophet Elijah in old times to the point that he sought death for his soul. Lord, make steadfast in the hope because You have not given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of love, help, and self-control. Amen.




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At that time the Copts were engaged in handicrafts, as we have mentioned above. Saint Samaan, therefore, worked also in one of the crafts that were widespread in Babylon (Old Cairo), which was tanning.

(Old Cairo is till known for this craft till today.)

Most probably, this profession was not confined in the past to tanning animal skins, but included also the crafts that depend on this process,

such as shoemaking and the like.

Our saint carried several titles related to skins, of which we list the following:

Samaan the Tanner. (6)







Samaan the Cobbler. (7) Samaan the shoemaker. (8)

This was also the profession of saint Ananaias the first patriarch of the

Coptic church after Mar Markus, who went, after having traveled about

in Alexandria, to this cobbler to mend his torn shoes. And when the awl pierced through the hand of the cobbler, he cried out, "Ious theos,"

which means "O the One God."

Mar Markus evangelized him and he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was ordained a patriarch to lead the church after him.

My Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You for my profession that you gave me. Thanks for the mind that you created in me to learn this profession.

Lord, allow me to use it for your glory, so that Your great name might be exalted by it, as it is exalted in everything You created. Grant the true Christian honesty in practicing this profession, so that people may see

my good works and glorify our father who is in heaven. Amen.




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When the saint was practicing his work as a shoemaker, a woman came to him to mend her shoes, and this woman was beautiful. It

so happened that when she was putting off her shoes, her legs showed and he ogled lustfully at her. But at once he drove the awl into one of his eyes, thus plucking it out (9) in keeping with the commandment of the Lord "But I tell you that anyone who looks at

a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her i his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it and throw it away. it is

better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Mt. 5:28,29).

Yes, how beautiful the history of the church is, with all its narratives about the saintly fathers. It follows the same pattern

which the Bible adopted in narrating the lives of its saints. before mentioning their strength, it mentions their human weakness, to which the power of Christ comes and changes it into strength, and thus life is brought forth from death, and satisfying honey from the dead lion.

Hasn't the Bible mentioned the sin of lying in the life of Abraham the father of faith (Gen 12:13), and the sin of adultery in the life of David (2 Sa 11)? Even the apostle Paul himself, being our teacher,

has declared this very clearly when he said, "Even though I was

once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." (1 Ti

1:13). Yes, my dear brother, how wonderful the grace of Christ is, which lifts up from weakness and empowers with strength; and it







even draws people out of the dunghill and seats them on thrones. He simply carried out the commandment literally. the great scholar

Oregon had done a similar thing before him when he castrated himself in fulfillment of the verse that says: "Others have

renounced marriage (or castrated themselves) because of the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 19:12). Each one of them has so acted in total sincerity to carry out the commandment literally, even though the church does not allow this, not to mention teach it. It was

nothing but a literal and simple act which the church tolerated. But when Oregon castrated himself, the church excommunicated him,

in spite of his status as great scholar, for the Lord did not mean it

to be taken literally, but He was rather pointing to the mortification

of the flesh; as the church teaches us to pray, saying, "Mortify our physical senses, O Christ our God." This is the same thing that the apostle Paul meant when he said, "Count yourselves dead to sin."

(Ro 6:11).

My Lord Jesus Christ, I thank You for these bright,holy, pure models that hate evil.Yes, it was You who made them hate evil ... Give me belief in Your existence in my heart, which is able to transform the corruption of my life into a life of purity. You can replace what the locusts of uncleanness have eaten with a life of

holiness. Lord, grant me to submit to the Spirit of holiness, so that

he might work in me His holy works, and break off all the bonds of my sins through the intercession of Saint Samaan the Tanner, the example of the life of holiness.. Amen.




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Saint Samaan the Tanner was an ascetic person, which fact was made known from the conversation he had with the patriarch Abram, when the latter asked him about his life when The Virgin Mary led him to meet him. He said about himself,

"I eat a little just to keep myself alive." (10)

Thus we can see how this saint renounced the pleasures of this

life, contenting himself with the least, so as to keep himself alive</