Anthony of Egypt, St
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.
Saint Anthony (ăn´tənē, ăn´thənē), 251?–c.350, Egyptian hermit, called St. Anthony of Egypt and St. Anthony the Abbot. At the age of 20 he gave away his large inheritance and became a hermit. At 35 he went into seclusion and at that time he experienced, says tradition, every temptation the devil could devise, but he repelled them. A colony of hermits grew up about him, and after 20 years he emerged to rule them in a community, the monks being in solitude except for worship and meals. After a few years he went away to the desert near Thebes, where he lived most of the rest of his long life. St. Anthony was the father of Christian monasticism; his community became a model, particularly in the East, but he did not write the rule ascribed to him. His type of community is seen in the West among the Carthusians. He is a patron of herders. St. Athanasius wrote his life. The temptation of St. Anthony has inspired works of literature, particularly a novel by Flaubert, and became a popular theme early in the history of Western art. Feast: Jan. 17.
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."