[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Paul of Thebes, called the Anchorite

III/IV Centuries
One of the earliest hermits of the Egyptian wilderness, Paul discovered underground in the desert an abandoned secret government facility from the days of Cleopatra and made it his dwelling place. Alerted to his existence by a vision, St. Anthony the Great visited him many years later, and returned again to bury his relics, assisted by a pair of lions. It is interesting that after decades of isolation, St. Paul's first questions to Anthony were about the state of the Empire: being an anchorite did not mean ceasing to care about people in the world.

The short Latin biography of Paul by St. Jerome was one of the most successful hagiographic texts ever written, read in the East as well as in the West. It presents the hermit and his visitor as attractive and humane figures -- Paul's first comment to Anthony is actually a witticism -- representatives of a divine civilisation flourishing in the wilderness while the secular culture of the cities, gruesomely portrayed in the Vita's opening paragraphs, degenerated into violence and sensuality.

Norman Hugh Redington

Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.


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