Saint NamePhoibammon, soldier martyr of Preht (ob. c. 304) : S00080
Saint Name in Sourceⲁⲡⲁ ⲫⲟⲓⲃⲁⲙⲙⲱⲛ
Type of EvidenceDocumentary texts - Donation document
Evidence not before770
Evidence not after780
Activity not before770
Activity not after780
Place of Evidence - RegionEgypt and Cyrenaica
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Hermopolis
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - monastic
Cult activities - Places Named after Saint
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiracle after death
Healing diseases and disabilities
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Other lay individuals/ people
SourceP.KRU 89, fragmentary papyrus document, missing the beginning, located at the British Museum in London, Pap. 92 and the Cairo Museum no. 8733.
These documents testify, often in great detail, to a healing cult at the monastery of Apa Phoibammon. Patients remain in the holy place (topos) for a period of time, praying and entreating the saint to grant healing, and receiving the eucharist. Holy water in a basin by the altar seems to play an essential role in the healing miracles performed, when poured over the patient.
DiscussionOf the twenty-six child donation documents known so far, P.KRU 78–103 (E00179–E00204), dating from the years 734–786, nearly half are entirely preserved (P.KRU 79–82 86, 88, 91, 93, 96, 99, 100). In these documents parents state their desire to donate their son as a lifelong servant to Apa Phoibammon. The reason stated in these documents is a miraculous healing bestowed upon these children through the intervention of Apa Phoibammon. It is explicitly stated that parents proceed with this donation for the salvation of their own souls. In most documents, fathers are donating the child with the consent of its mother; occasionally, however, this procedure is carried out by mothers acting independently (P.KRU 79, 81, 86, 95), either as widows, or by simply not mentioning a husband.
Formally, these donation documents following a successful healing are carried out as legal documents, addressed to the managerial body (the dikaion) of the monastery and/or to its current superior. They are written by a professional scribe, read out by a notary, approved by the donor, and signed by several witnesses. They form the final link in a chain of cult events aiming to secure a miracle healing performed in the saint’s sanctuary and are intended to ensure its lasting effect.
This document belongs to a group of seven child donation documents, which report that a child is pledged to the saint at birth, in analogy to 1 Samuel 1, but because the parents fail to honour this agreement, they are punished with a severe illness of their child. They beg the saint for forgiveness and promise to donate their child to the monastery, if the saint should grant him healing. This he does, and the boy is donated.
P.KRU 80, 85, 86, 96, 97, and 100 belong to the same group of documents. The original pledge, which was then dishonoured, was made explicitly for the salvation of the donor’s soul. It appears to have been a purely private promise between the donor and the saint, without any formal documentation or witnessing. P.KRU 86, a similar document of this kind, however, seems to refer to a written contract (homologia) with respect to the pledge made at birth (P.KRU 86, line 32).
Crum, W.E., and Steindorff, G., Koptische Rechtsurkunden des achten Jahrhunderts aus Djeme (Theben) (Leipzig, 1971), 253–320 (P. KRU 78–103).
Till, W.C., Die Koptischen Rechtsurkunden aus Theben (Vienna: H. Böhlaus, 1964), 149–186.
Biedenkopf-Ziehner, A., Koptische Schenkungsurkunden aus Thebais: Formeln und Topoi der Urkunden, Aussagen der Urkunden, Indices (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2001).
Godlewski, W., Deir el-Bahari V: Le monastère de St. Phoibammon (Warsaw: PWN, 1986).
Papaconstantinou, A., "Notes sur les actes de donation d’enfants au monastère thébain de Saint-Phoibammon," The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 32 (2002), 83–105.
Papaconstantinou, A., "Theia oikonomia. Les actes thébains de donation d’enfants ou la gestion monastique de la pénurie," in: Mélanges Gilbert Dagron (Paris: Association des amis du Centre d'histore et civilisation de Byzance, 2002), 511–526.
Richter, T.S., "What’s in a story? Cultural narratology and Coptic child donation documents," The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 35 (2005), 237–264.
Schaten, S., "Koptische Kinderschenkungsurkunden," Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 35 (1996), 129–142.
Schenke, G., "The Healing Shrines of St Phoibammon. Evidence of Cult Activity in Coptic Legal Documents," Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum (ZAC) 2016, 20(3), 496–523.
Schroeder, C., "Children and Egyptian Monasteries," in: C. B. Horn and R. R. Phenix (eds.), Children in Late Ancient Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 317–338.
Thissen, H.–J., "Koptische Kinderschenkungsurkunden. Zur Hierodulie im christlichen Ägypten," Enchoria 14 (1986), 117–128.
Wipszycka, E., "Resources and Economic Activities of the Egyptian Monastic Communities (4th–8th century)," The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 41 (2011), 159–263, esp. 221–227.
For a full range of the documentary evidence on Phoibammon:
Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides (Paris: CNRS, 2001), 204–214.