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Anthony, Saint

art hermit mount pispir

Saint Anthony (Antony, or Anthony Abbot) of Egypt is often termed the “founder of monasticism.” After the *death of his parents c.270, he provided for his sister and gave away the remainder of his goods to the needy. He went to live as a hermit in a tomb in a cemetery until c.285 when he moved to an abandoned fort on Mount Pispir. He lived alone there for twenty years, although his fame inspired others to gather around his retreat and emulate his austere and pious lifestyle. In 305 he organized a colony of ascestics at Fayum and founded another monastery at Pispir in 311. He became involved in contemporary politics and religious issues when he went to Alexandria in 311 to provide encouragement for Christians being persecuted, and on another trip to Alexandria in 355 to assist his friend Athanasius to combat the Arian heresy. Between these journeys, he lived in a cave on Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea, where he also spent the last year of his life. He occasionally received visitors, gave advice, and corresponded with several people including the emperor *Constantine. The earliest account of his life was written by Athanasius. The “temptations” he underwent during his solitary sojourns became popular subjects in medieval art; Anthony may be shown attacked by *demons and wild beasts, or warding off the advances of a female figure symbolizing Lust. Normally depicted as an elderly bearded figure wearing a hood and long robes, he may hold a bell (to scare away the *Devil) and be accompanied by a pig (a former wild boar which he tamed). He may support himself on a T-shaped crutch; the tau *cross (derived from an ancient Egyptian symbol) was an emblem of Alexandrian Christians, and may also be depicted on the shoulder of Saint Anthony’s cloak. Saint Anthony visiting Saint *Paul the Hermit, encountering a centaur and *satyr on the way, and the two old hermits being brought their daily bread by a raven are also narratives found in medieval art, deriving from the * Golden Legend . The Order of Hospitallers of Saint Anthony was founded c.1100 to care for *pilgrims, the sick, and especially those suffering from ergotism ; hence flames and fire are also attributes of Saint Anthony.

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