Paul of Thebes
|Saint Paul The first Hermit (Anba Boula) (Ava Pavly)|
Saint Paul The first Hermit
|The First Hermit|
|Born||c. 228 AD
|Died||c. 343 AD
Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite, Egypt
|Honored in||Oriental Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Major shrine||Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite, Egypt|
|Feast||February 9 (Oriental Orthodox Churches)
January 15 (Roman Catholic Church)[note 1]
January 15 (Eastern Orthodox Church)
|Attributes||Two lions, palm tree, raven|
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Saint Paul The first Hermit (Anba Boula) (Ava Pavly) , (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.
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 around 250 AD. 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 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.
Jerome further related 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. The Synaxarium shows each saint inviting the other to bless and break the bread, as a token of honor. St. 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.
Father Anthony returned to his monastery taking with him the robe woven with palm leaf. He honored the robe so much that he only wore it twice a year: at the Feast of Easter, and at the Pentecost.
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 Hungary his honour in the 13th century. He is usually represented with a palm tree, two lions and a raven.
- "In Thebais, the birthday of St. Paul, the first hermit, who lived alone in the desert from the sixteenth to the one hundred and thirteenth year of his age. His soul was seen by St. Anthony carried by angels among the choirs of apostles and prophets. His feast is celebrated on the 15th of this month."
- 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.
- Great Synaxaristes: (Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Παῦλος ὁ Θηβαῖος. 15 Ιανουαρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
- 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 0-14-051312-4.