St. Anthony the Abbot
Also known as Anthony of Egypt; Anthony the Great; Father of Cenobites; Father of Western Monasticism

St. Anthony

Born: 251, Heracleus, Egypt

Died: 356, Mount Colzim

Major Shrine: Near Vienne

Coptic Feast Day: January 17

Patron Saint of: amputees; animals; basket makers; brushmakers; Burgio, Sicily; butchers; domestic animals; eczema; epilepsy, ergotism; erysipelas; graveyards; hermits; Hospitallers; monks; pigs; relief from pestilence; Saint Anthony's fire; skin diseases; skin rashes; swineherds

Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, he insured that his sister completed her education, then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At age 35 he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counselor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the Gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Nile, one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus' persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. Friend late in life of Saint Paul the Hermit, and buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend Saint Athanasius.

His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineherds is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony's intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the art work, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs - and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.

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