This question was alluded to but ignored in Origin of Mareh Kohen tune.

Who composed the piyut Mareh Cohen, and when was it written? (This will help me put the piyut in context, perhaps give an indication of the attitude towards Kohanim Gedolim at that time, etc.)

  • When it was written there were no Kohanim Gedolim. That's the whole point of it. How wonderful was it back then. It's being written after the destruction of the Temple.
    – Double AA
    Aug 26, 2018 at 5:17
  • @DoubleAA I can easily imagine it being sung when there's a real Kohen Gadol. He walks out and everyone starts singing (same tune as now) אמת מה נהדר (פלוני) כהן גדול נכנס ויצא מבית קדשי הקדשים בשלום בלי פגע or something like that. It probably didn't happen then, especially the tune part, but it might when Mashiach comes.
    – Heshy
    Aug 26, 2018 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


Ofir Minz-Manor in this article (Hebrew) writes on page 166 that, based on the nature of the poetry and particularly its lack of rhyme, the piyyut can be classified as having been written in the pre-Classical period (3rd - 5th centuries CE).

He notes further that this piyyut appears to be based on the description of the Kohein Gadol Shimon b. Yochanan which appears in Chapter 50 of the book of Ben Sira. (This identification was first made by Shir on page 225 of his Toldot.)

Unfortunately (as with many piyyutim from that long ago) the author's name does not seem to be known.

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