Founder of cenobitism, one of the greatest of the monastic fathers; b. Esneh, Egypt, c. 290; d. Egypt, 346. Pachomius founded nine monasteries for men and two for women in the thebaÏd, of which he was a native, and gave them a written rule that is still extant. Born and raised a pagan, he met some Christians in his youth while serving in the army. Their charity so edified him that he became a Christian and, eventually, a solitary (c. 314) at Schenesit under the direction of the hermit St. Palaemon. About six years later he moved a short distance away to tabennisi and there began to develop what later became the first coenobium or monastery of the full communal life. His contemporaries, as well as present-day scholars, viewed him as a man of vision and purpose who from the beginning of monasticism saw the need for a development that would provide against the spiritual and physical hazards of the solitary life, by centering the movement on the communal charity inherent in Christianity from its start. He began with a few monks, who promised to obey him and to share in common the fruits of the employment that they had secured for themselves.
As the number of his disciples increased, Pachomius gradually developed a concept of mortification based on total obedience to superiors and subordinate officers, under whom all work was organized, and complete common ownership of goods and the fruits of labor. By the time he died, his monasteries formed a great and closely knit congregation, in which thousands of monks were organized for work in many trades and for common morning and evening prayer and meals. Throughout his lifetime Pachomius presided as superior general. He established Pabou, his second foundation, as his motherhouse and held there at Easter and in August of each year a general gathering of his superiors. The style and contents of his rule indicate that it was composed over a long period of time and not dictated by an angel according to the legend recorded by palladius (Historia Lausiaca 32.1). Its achievement was to provide an adequate economic and spiritual basis for the common life, legislating with discretion for what was of common obligation and allowing freedom for greater austerity on the part of the individual monk.
Six biographies of Pachomius by contemporaries survive; and also several of his instructions to his monks and the instructions and letters of his two great successors, Horsiesi (d. 380) and Theodore (d. 368). The two ruled jointly after a schism threatened the congregation in 350. Their writings, especially Horsiesi's De doctrina institutione monachorum, reveal a deep understanding and development of the Pachomian ideal. Within Horsiesi's lifetime the influence of Pachomius's rule had extended beyond the Pachomian monasteries and affected the cenobitic foundations and Rule of basil of Caesarea.
In 404 jerome responded to a request to provide a Latin translation of the rule for the Latins who were entering the Pachomian monasteries. This text is the only one that has survived; it was the means by which Pachomian influence advanced in the West. The Regula Vigilii (or Regula Orientalis ) written in Gaul c. 420 depends much on Pachomius's rule, borrowing about a quarter of its text. The sixthor seventh-century Regula Tarnatensis also shows significant dependence. The Rule of St. benedict (c. 540), and the rules of caesarius ofarles and of his successor Aurelian (written c. 512–550) show less but unmistakable dependence. benedict ofaniane (d. 821) includes the Latin version of Pachomius's rule in his collection of rules and refers to it frequently in his Concordia regularum. Besides the direct influence of his rule, Pachomius's influence must be estimated to some extent in terms of the total influence of cenobitism as the prevailing form of monasticism in Christian civilization.
Feast: May 9 (Roman martyrology and Coptic Church).
Bibliography: h. quecke, ed., Die Briefe Pachoms (Regensburg 1975). j. quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, Md. 1950–) 3:154–160. Vitae. Gr. ed. f. halkin (Subsidia Hagiographica 19; Brussels 1932). Syriac. p. bedjan, ed., Acta martyrum et sanctorum, 7 v. (Paris 1890–97) 5:122–176. Arabic. e. amÉlineau, ed., Histoire de S. Pakhôme et de ses communautés (Annales de Musée Guimet 17) 337–711. l. t. lefort, tr., Les Vies coptes de S. Pachôme et de ses premiers successeurs (Louvain 1943); ed. and tr., Oeuvres de S. Pachôme et de ses disciples, 2 v. (Corpus scriptorum Christianorum orientalium [Paris-Louvain 1903] 159–160, Scriptores Coptici 23–24; 1956). a. boon and l. t. lefort, eds., Pachomiana latina (Louvain 1932). The Life of Pachomius: vita prima Graeca, tr. a. n. athanassakis (Missoula, Mont. 1975) with Greek text. The Life of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples, tr. a. veilleux (Kalamazoo, Mich. 1980). e. a. t. budge, Coptic Apocrypha in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London 1913) 352–382. p. ladeuze, Étude sur le cénobitisme pakhomien (Louvain 1898). h. bacht, "L'Importance de l'idéal monastique de S. P. pour l'histoire du monachisme chrétien," Revue d'ascétique et de mystique 26: (1950) 308–326; in Antonius Magnus Eremita, ed. b. steidle (Studia anselmiana 38) 66–107. c. de clercq, Mélanges L. Halphen (Paris 1951) 169–176. a. j. festugiÈre, Les moines d'Orient, v. 4 (Paris 1964). Pachomian koinonia, tr. a. veilleux, 3 v. (Kalamazoo, Mich. 1980-1982). p. rousseau, Pachomius: The Making of a Community in Fourth-Century Egypt (Berkeley 1985). a. de vogÜÉ, De Saint Pachôme à Jean Cassien: études littéraires et doctrinales sur le monachisme égyptien à ses débuts (Rome 1996).
[m. c. mccarthy]