Anthony of Egypt, St

views updated Jun 11 2018

Anthony of Egypt, St (c.251–356), Egyptian hermit, the founder of monasticism. During his seclusion in the Egyptian desert he attracted a number of followers whom he organized into a community; his hermit life is also noted for the temptations he underwent, especially from demons in the guise of beautiful women. He is said to have visited, and arranged the burial of, St Paul, the first Christian hermit (see St Paul2).

In the Middle Ages the belief arose that praying to St Anthony would effect a cure for ergotism, and the Order of Hospitallers of St Anthony (founded at La Motte c.1100, with members of the Order wearing black robes marked by a blue tau cross) became a pilgrimage centre. The little bells rung by Hospitallers asking for alms were afterwards hung round the necks of animals as a protection against disease, and pigs which belonged to the Order were allowed to roam about the streets (see tantony pig). His traditional emblems are pigs and bells, and he is the patron saint of basket-makers and swineherds. His feast day is 17 January.
St Anthony's cross another name for the tau cross, worn by the Order of Hospitallers of St Anthony of Egypt.
St Anthony's fire a name for inflammation of the skin due to ergot poisoning, reflects the belief that St Anthony could cure the illness.

Anthony, St

views updated Jun 11 2018

Anthony, St.

A great demon of enormous stature is said to have approached Anthony one day to offer his services. In response, the saint looked at him sideways and spat in his face. The demon vanished without a word and did not dare to appear on Earth for a long time afterward. In response to this encounter St. Anthony once said: "I fear the demon no more than I fear a fly, and with the sign of the cross I can at once put him to flight."

St. Athanasius, who wrote the biography St. Anthony, mingled his hero's adventures with the devil and certain other incidents that contrast strangely. Some philosophers, astonished at the great wisdom of Anthony, asked him in what book he had discovered his doctrine. The saint pointed with one hand to the Earth, and the other to the sky. "There are my books," said he, "I have no others. If men will design to study as I do the marvels of creation, they will find wisdom enough there. Their spirit will soon soar from the creation to the Creator."

Anthony, Saint

views updated May 17 2018

Anthony, Saint (c.250–c.355) Egyptian saint and first Christian monk. He withdrew into complete solitude at the age of 20 to practise ascetic devotion. The monastic ideal, outlined by Saint Athanasius in the Life of St Anthony, attracted many devotees. By the time of St Anthony's death, Christian monasticism was well established. His feast day is January 17.

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