Paphnutius the Ascetic

Last updated
Saint Paphnutius the Ascetic
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Feast 15 February & 25 September (Byzantine Christianity)
15 Meshir (Coptic Christianity)

Saint Paphnutius the Ascetic (Coptic: Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲡⲁⲫⲛⲟⲩϯ), also known as Paphnutius the Hermit, was an Egyptian anchorite of the fourth century. He is most famous for his accounts of the lives of many hermits of the Egyptian desert, such as Saint Onuphrius.

Coptic language Latest stage of the Egyptian language

Coptic or Coptic Egyptian, is the latest stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century as an official language. Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet, an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from Demotic to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have, in the 2nd century BC.

Egyptians are the citizens of the transcontinental Afro-Asiatic country Egypt. Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to the Mediterranean and enclosed by desert both to the east and to the west. This unique geography has been the basis of the development of Egyptian society since antiquity.

Anchorite hermit

An anchorite or anchoret is someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, or Eucharist-focused life. Whilst anchorites are frequently considered to be a type of religious hermit, unlike hermits they were required to take a vow of stability of place, opting for permanent enclosure in cells often attached to churches. Also unlike hermits, anchorites were subject to a religious rite of consecration that closely resembled the funeral rite, following which they would be considered dead to the world, a type of living saint. Anchorites had a certain autonomy, as they did not answer to any ecclesiastical authority other than the bishop.

Saint Paphnutius was the disciple of Saint Macarius the Great who was an anchorite in the Egyptian desert. [1]

His feast is celebrated on 15 February and 25 September in the Orthodox Church in America. [2] In Coptic Christianity, his feast is observed on 15 Meshir. [3]

Orthodox Church in America Eastern Orthodox church in North America

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is an Eastern Orthodox church in North America. The OCA is partly recognized as autocephalous and consists of more than 700 parishes, missions, communities, monasteries and institutions in the United States and Canada. In 2011, it had an estimated 84,900 members in the United States.

Meshir, also known as Mechir and Amshir, is the sixth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lies between February 8 and March 9 of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Meshir is also the second month of the Season of Proyet in ancient Egypt, where the Nile floods recede and the crops start to grow throughout the land of Egypt.

He was visited by Cassian in 395, when he was ninety. [4]

He is also the subject of the play Paphnutius by Hrosvit (ca. 935-ca. 1001), a Benedictine nun from Saxony, in which he converts the courtesan Thais to Christianity. This play in turn has become the subject of study, most notably by Sandro Sticca.

Paphnutius or The Conversion of the Harlot Thaïs is a play originally written in Latin by Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim (935-1002). It concerns the relationship between Saint Thaïs, once a courtesan of Alexandria in Roman Egypt, and Paphnutius the Ascetic, the hermit who offered her conversion to Christianity. The characters of the play lived during the 4th century. Much later in Europe, beginning in the early middle ages, the story of St. Thaïs also enjoyed a wide popularity.

Saxony State in Germany

Saxony, officially the Free State of Saxony, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, bordering the federal states of Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, and Bavaria, as well as the countries of Poland and the Czech Republic. Its capital is Dresden, and its largest city is Leipzig.

Related Research Articles

Anthony the Great Christian saint, monk, and hermit

Saint Anthony or Antony, was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. He is distinguished from other saints named Anthony such as Anthony of Padua, by various epithets of his own: Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Antony the Abbot,Anthony of the Desert,Anthony the Anchorite, and Anthony of Thebes. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later Christian monasticism, he is also known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on 17 January among the Orthodox and Catholic churches and on Tobi 22 in the Coptic calendar used by the Coptic Church.

Pachomius the Great Egyptian saint

Saint Pachomius, also known as Pachome and Pakhomius, is generally recognized as the founder of Christian cenobitic monasticism. Coptic churches celebrate his feast day on 9 May, and Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches mark his feast on 15 May or 28 May. In the Lutheran Church, the saint is remembered as a renewer of the church, along with his contemporary, Anthony of Egypt on January 17.

Hermit person who lives in seclusion from society

A hermit, or eremite, is a person who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons. Hermits are a part of several sections of Christianity, and the concept is found in other religions as well.

Onuphrius Desert father

Onuphrius or Onoufrios, venerated as Saint Onuphrius in both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Catholic Churches; Venerable Onuphrius in Eastern Orthodoxy and Saint Nofer the Anchorite in Oriental Orthodoxy, lived as a hermit in the desert of Upper Egypt in the 4th or 5th centuries.

Macarius of Egypt Egyptian Christian monk and hermit

Macarius of Egypt was a Coptic Christian monk and hermit. He is also known as Macarius the Elder, Macarius the Great and The Lamp of the Desert.

Macarius of Alexandria monk in the Nitrian Desert

Saint Macarius of Alexandria was a monk in the Nitrian Desert. He was a slightly younger contemporary of Macarius of Egypt, and is thus also known as Macarius the Younger.

Paul of Thebes Christian hermit

Paul of Thebes, commonly known as Paul, the First Hermit or Paul the Anchorite, or in Egyptian Arabic as Anba Bola, Coptic: Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲉ; is regarded as the first Christian hermit, who was claimed to have lived alone in the desert from the age of sixteen to one hundred thirteen years of his age. He is not to be confused with Paul the Simple, who was a disciple of Anthony the Great. He is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church as well as the Orthodox Church.


A skete is a monastic community in Eastern Christianity that allows relative isolation for monks, but also allows for communal services and the safety of shared resources and protection. It is one of four types of early monastic orders, along with the eremitic, lavritic and coenobitic, that became popular during the early formation of the Christian Church.

Pope Gabriel VII of Alexandria was the 95th Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark.

Wadi El Natrun Place in Beheira, Egypt

Wadi El Natrun is a depression in northern Egypt that is located 23 m (75 ft) below sea level and 38 m (125 ft) below the Nile River level. The valley contains several alkaline lakes, natron-rich salt deposits, salt marshes and freshwater marshes.

Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great Monastery in Egypt

The Monastery of Saint Macariusthe Great also known as Dayr Aba Maqār is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in Wadi El Natrun, Beheira Governorate, about 92 km (57 mi) north-west of Cairo, and off the highway between Cairo and Alexandria.

Monastery of Saint Anthony Monastery in Egypt

The Monastery of Saint Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monastery standing in an oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, in the southern part of the Suez Governorate. Hidden deep in the Red Sea Mountains, it is located 334 km (208 mi) southeast of Cairo. It is the oldest monastery in the world. St Anthony himself was the founder of monasticism. The Monastery of Saint Anthony was established by the followers of Saint Anthony, who is the first Christian monk. The Monastery of St. Anthony is one of the most prominent monasteries in Egypt and has strongly influenced the formation of several Coptic institutions, and has promoted monasticism in general. Several patriarchs have come from the monastery, and several hundred pilgrims visit it each day.

Abib and Apollo were two Christian ascetics from Akhmim, Egypt. They are mentioned in the Synaxarion, das ist der Heiligen-Kalendar del Koptischen Christen. Their feast day is celebrated on November 4.

Coptic history

Coptic history is part of history of Egypt that begins with the introduction of Christianity in Egypt in the 1st century AD during the Roman period, and covers the history of the Copts to the present day. Many of the historic items related to Coptic Christianity are on display in many museums around the world and a large number is in the Coptic Museum in Coptic Cairo.

Coptic monasticism

Coptic Monasticism is claimed to be the original form of Monasticism as St. Anthony of Egypt became the first one to be called "monk" and he was the first to established a Christian monastery which is now known as the Monastery of Saint Anthony in the Red Sea area. St. Anthony's Monastery is now the oldest monastery in the world.

Saint Fana, also known as Abu Fana, Abu Fanah, or Apa Bane was a Coptic hermit. The Monastery of Saint Fana in the diocese of Mallawi, Upper Egypt, is named after him.

Thaïs (saint) saint

St. Thaïs of fourth-century Roman Alexandria and of the Egyptian desert was a repentant courtesan.

Saint Thomas the Hermit is a Saint of the Coptic Orthodox Church, he is also known as "Saint Thomas the Anchorite", "Saint Thomas of Shenshif" or simply as "Abba Thomas"[(Coptic word meaning Father) (Αw-ba)Sahidic (Αw-va)Bohairic]. Saint Thomas was born in Upper Egypt, in a small village known as "Shenshif". He is revered by the Coptic Orthodox Church, since he is one of the early Anchorites, or Desert Fathers. Little is commonly known about him.

Tim Vivian is an American scholar of Early Christianity and Professor of Religious Studies at California State University, Bakersfield.


  1. Vivian, Tim (2004). St Macarius the SpiritBearer. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. pp. 64, 131, 140, 195.
  2. "Venerable Paphnutius of Alexandria". Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  4. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Paphnutius"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.