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Paul of Thebes, (Coptic: Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲉ) commonly known as Saint Paul the First Hermit or St Paul the Anchorite (d. c. 341) is regarded as the first Christian hermit. He is not to be confused with Paul the Simple, who was a disciple of Anthony the Great.

Legend

The legend according to Jerome's Vitae Patrum (Vita Pauli primi eremitae) is that, as a young man, Paul fled to the Theban desert during the persecution of Decius and Valerianus in c. 250. He lived in the mountains of this desert in a cave near a clear spring and a palm tree, the leaves of which provided him with raiment and the fruit of which provided him with his only source of food till he was 43 years old, when a raven started bringing him half a loaf of bread daily. He would remain in that cave for the rest of his life, almost a hundred years.

Jerome further relates the meeting of Anthony the Great and Paul, when the latter was aged 113. They conversed with each other for one day and one night. When Anthony next visited him, Paul was dead. Anthony clothed him in a tunic which was a present from Athanasius of Alexandria and buried him, with two lions helping to dig the grave.

Veneration

His feast day is celebrated on January 15 in the West, on January 5 or January 15 in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and on 2 Meshir (February 9) in the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Saint Anthony described him as "the first monk". The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit was founded in his honour: see Pauline Fathers. He is usually represented with a palm tree and two lions.

See also



References

  • Oxford Dictionary of Saints, ed D. H. Farmer. OUP 2004.
  • "Coptic Synexarium"
  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.


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