Paul of Thebes

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Paul of Thebes
San Pablo Ermitaño, por José de Ribera.jpg
Saint Paul, "The First Hermit", Jusepe de Ribera, Museo del Prado (1640)
The First Hermit
Bornc. 227 AD
Diedc. 341 AD
Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite, Egypt
Venerated inCatholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Anglican Communion
Major shrineMonastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite, Egypt
AttributesTwo lions, palm tree, raven

Paul of Thebes, commonly known as Paul, the First Hermit or Paul the Anchorite (Egyptian Arabic: Anba Bola; Coptic: Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲉ; c. 227 – c. 341), was an Egyptian saint regarded as the first Christian hermit, who was claimed to have lived alone in the desert of Egypt from the age of sixteen to the age of one hundred and thirteen years old. He is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church as well as the Orthodox Church.[3][4]


The Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit (Vitae Patrum (Vita Pauli primi eremitae)) was composed in Latin by Saint Jerome, probably in 375–376.[5] Paul of Thebes was born around 227 in the Thebaid of Egypt.[6]

Paul and his married sister lost their parents. In order to obtain Paul's inheritance, his brother-in-law sought to betray him to the persecutors.[5] According to Jerome's Vitae Patrum (Vita Pauli primi eremitae[7]), Paul fled to the Theban desert as a young man during the persecution of Decius and Valerianus around AD 250.[8]

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 clothing and the fruit of which provided him with his only source of food until 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.[6]

Paul of Thebes’ visit at Anthony the Great
Saint Anthony the Great and Saint Paul the Anchorite, Diego Velázquez, circa 1634

Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because around the year 342, Anthony the Great was told in a dream about the older hermit's existence, and went to find him.[9] Jerome related that Anthony the Great and Paul met when the latter was aged 113. They conversed with each other for one day and one night. The Synaxarium shows each saint inviting the other to bless and break the bread, as a token of honor. Paul held one side, putting the other side into the hands of Father Anthony, and soon the bread broke through the middle and each took his part. 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.[9]

Father Anthony returned to his monastery taking with him the robe woven with palm leaf.[9] He honored the robe so much that he only wore it twice a year: at the Feast of Easter, and at the Pentecost.[6]


His feast day is celebrated on 15 January in the West, on 5 January or 15 January in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and on 2 Meshir (9 February) in the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Anthony described him as "the first monk".

Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite (Deir Anba Bola) is traditionally believed to be on the site of the cave where Paul lived and where his remains are kept.[10] The monastery is located in the eastern desert mountains of Egypt near the Red Sea. The Cave Church of St. Paul marks the spot where Anthony, "the Father of Monasticism", and Paul, "the First Hermit", are believed to have met.[11]

He is also the patron saint of the Diocese of San Pablo (Philippines) and is the titular of the Cathedral of the said Diocese in San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines.

The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit[12] was founded in Hungary in his honour in the 13th century. He is usually represented with a palm tree, two lions and a raven.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In Thebais, the birthday of St. Paul, the first hermit, who lived alone in the desert from the age of sixteen to the age of one hundred thirteen. ...His feast is celebrated on the 15th of this month."[1]


  1. ^ The Roman Martyrology. Transl. by the Archbishop of Baltimore. Last Edition, According to the Copy Printed at Rome in 1914. Revised Edition, with the Imprimatur of His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons. Baltimore: John Murphy Company, 1916. p.11.
  2. ^ Great Synaxaristes: (in Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Παῦλος ὁ Θηβαῖος. 15 Ιανουαρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  3. ^ "St. Paul of Thebes, Church's first known hermit, honored Jan. 15".
  4. ^ "Venerable Paul of Thebes".
  5. ^ a b "Paul of Thebes, Saint", Guillaumont, Antoine and Kuhn, K. H., The Coptic Encyclopedia, volume 6, Macmillan
  6. ^ a b c "Venerable Paul of Thebes", Orthodox Church in America
  7. ^ Ed. crit.: Bazyli Degórski (ed.), Edizione critica della "Vita Sancti Pauli Primi eremitae" di Girolamo, Institutum Patristicum "Augustinianum", ROMA 1987; italian translation: Bazyli Degórski (ed.), San Girolamo. Vite degli eremiti: Paolo, Ilarione, Malco [= Collana di Testi Patristici, 126], Città Nuova Editrice, Roma 1996, pp. 63-89.20; Bazyli Degórski (ed.), Hieronymi historica et hagiographica. Vita Beati Pauli monachi Thebaei. Vita Hilarionis. Vita Malchi monachi captivi. Epistula praefatoria in Chronicis Eusebii Caesariensis. Chronicorum Eusebii Caesariensis continuatio. De viris inlustribus. In Regulae S. Pachomii versionem praefatio || Girolamo. Opere storiche e agiografiche. Vita di san Paolo, eremita di Tebe. Vita di Ilarione. Vita di Malco, l’eremita prigioniero. Prefazione alla traduzione delle Cronache di Eusebio di Cesarea. Continuazione delle Cronache di Eusebio di Cesarea. Gli uomini illustri. [= Hieronymi opera, XV || OPERE di Girolamo, XV], Città Nuova, Roma 2014, pp. 73-115
  8. ^ Bacchus, Francis Joseph. "St. Paul the Hermit." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 31 May 2013
  9. ^ a b c "St. Paul of Thebes, Church's first known hermit, honored Jan. 15". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  10. ^ ""Deir Mar Boulos"". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  11. ^ "St. Paul's Monastery, Red Sea", The American Research Center in Egypt
  12. ^ "Who was Saint Paul the First Hermit?", Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit Archived 2013-07-01 at


  • Oxford Dictionary of Saints, ed D. H. Farmer. OUP 2004.
  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.

External links[edit]