John the Dwarf

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Saint John the Dwarf
Hosios Loukas (nave, vault over south-west bay) - John Kolobos.jpg
Mosaic in Hosios Loukas
Born ca. 339
Basta, Egypt
Died ca. 405
Mount Colzim, Egypt
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches
Feast October 17 = Paopi 20, November 9 (Eastern Orthodox Church)
Attributes Short Monk watering a stick

Saint John the Dwarf (Greek: Ιωάννης Κολοβός; Arabic: ابو يحنّس القصير (Abū) Yuḥannis al-Qaṣīr ca. 339 – ca. 405), also called Saint John Colobus, Saint John Kolobos or Abba John the Dwarf,[1] was an Egyptian Desert Father of the early Christian church.


John the Dwarf was born in the town of Basta in Egypt to poor Christian parents. At the age of eighteen, he and an elder brother, moved to the desert of Scetes[2] where he became a disciple of Saint Pambo and a good friend of Saint Pishoy. He lived a life of austerity and taught several other monks his way of life, among them was Arsenius the Great.

John the Dwarf is best known for his obedience. The most famous story about his obedience is that one day Saint Pambo gave Abba John a piece of dry wood and ordered him to plant and water it. John obeyed and went on watering it twice a day even though the water was about 12 miles from where they lived. After three years, the piece of wood sprouted and grew into a fruitful tree. Pambo took some of this tree's fruits and went around to all the elder monks, saying "take, eat from the fruit of obedience". The tree of Saint John the Dwarf, known as the Tree of Obedience, still exists today in the deserted Monastery of Saint John the Dwarf in the Nitrian Desert.[3]

After the departure of Saint Pambo, John was ordained a priest by Pope Theophilus and became abbot of the monastery he founded around the Tree of Obedience. When the Berbers invaded Scetes in 395, John fled the Nitrian Desert and went to live on Mount Colzim, near the present city of Suez, where he died.

In 515, the relics of Saint John the Dwarf were moved to the Nitrian Desert. His feast is celebrated on October 17 in the Roman Catholic Church, on 20 Paopi at the Coptic Orthodox Church and on November 9 in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Monastery of Saint John the Dwarf in Scetes is now deserted.


  1. ^ Ward, Benedicta (1975). The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. Cistercian Publications. ISBN 978-0879079598. 
  2. ^ Butler, Alban. "St. John the Dwarf, Anchoret of Sceté", The Lives of the Saints, Vol.IX, 1866
  3. ^ "Saint John the Dwarf", The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta