Saint Anthony Abbot
He was born at Koman, near Memphis, Upper Egypt, of well-to-do Christian parents; he distributed their inheritance on their death about 269, placed his sister in a convent, and in 272 became a hermit in a tomb in a cemetery near Koman. He lived a life of prayer, penance, and the strictest austerity, ate only bread and water once a day, and engaged in struggles with the devil and temptations that are legendary. About 285, in quest of greater solitude, he left this hermitage and took up residence in an old fort atop Mount Pispir (now Der el Memun), living in complete solitude and seeing no one, eating only what was thrown to him over the wall of the fort. After twenty years, in 305, he emerged to organize at Fayum the colony of ascetics that had grown around his retreat into a loosely organized monastery with a rule, though each monk lived in solitude except for worship. It was the first Christian monastery. In 311, at the height of Emperor Maximin's persecution, he went to Alexandria to give encouragement to the Christians being persecuted there. He returned when the persecution subsided and organized another monastery at Pispir but again retired, this time to Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea, with a disciple, Macarius. About 355, Anthony again went Alexandria to join those combating Arianism, working with his close friend St. Athanasius, whose Vita Antonii is the chief source of information about Anthony. On his return, he retired to a cave on Mount Kolzim, where he received visitors and dispensed advice until his death there on January 17. Anthony was the founder of Christian monasticism and was famous all over the civilized world for his holiness, asceticism, and wisdom, and was consulted by people from all walks oflife, from Emperor Constantine to the humblest monk.
Image by the Master of the Observance, after 1425.
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