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E00602: Fragmentary Sahidic Coptic Life of *Pachomios (Egyptian monastic founder, ob. 346, S00352), presumably written at his monastery in Tabennese (Upper Egypt) during the second half of the 4th c., includes accounts of miraculous healing activity and visions, of Pachomios’ death, and of his body being secretly buried to avoid the construction of a cult building (martyrion) over it.

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posted on 2015-06-09, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Sahidic Life of Pachomius


The Sahidic Life is only preserved in fragments from more than twenty different manuscripts.

The earliest vision Pachomios has is described in the fragment known as S1, where a luminous man appears to Pachomios to let him know that God’s will is for him to serve mankind in order to call people to God. He then starts to make room for others to join him in his anchoritic life.

Pachomios’ healings of two dropsical men and a man bitten by a snake are described in S2 as taking place through the mere presence or the touch of this holy man. He brings about healing through the Lord and tells the healed henceforth to sin no more.

The Life concludes with an account of how Pachomios on his deathbed urged his close disciple, Theodore, to ensure that his bodily remains were hidden, so that they could not attract cult:

Ed. Lefort, VS, p. 93, line 26–p.94, line 10 (S7, Pierpont Morgan Codex M 663):
ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲱⲥ ⲁϥⲕⲧⲟϥ ⲉⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲣⲟⲥ ⲁϥϣⲁϫⲉ ⲛⲙⲙⲁϥ· ϫⲉ ⲉⲣϣⲁⲛ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ϭⲙ ⲡⲁϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲙⲡⲣⲕⲁ ⲡⲁⲥⲱⲙⲁ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ
ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲛⲁⲧⲟⲙⲥϥ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ
ⲁϥⲟⲩⲱϣϥ ⲛⲁϥ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲕⲁϩ ⲛϩⲏⲧ· ϫⲉ ϯⲛⲁⲉⲓⲣⲉ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲡⲉⲕϣⲁϫⲉ·
ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲱⲥ ⲁϥⲁⲙⲁϩⲧⲉ ⲛⲧϥⲙⲟⲣⲧ· ⲁϥϩⲓⲟⲩⲉ ⲉϫⲉⲛ ⲧϥⲙⲉⲥⲧⲛϩⲏⲧ ⲙⲡⲙⲉϩⲥⲉⲡ ⲥⲛⲁⲩ· ϫⲉ ⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲣⲉ ϩⲁⲣⲉϩ· ⲙⲡⲣⲕⲁ ⲡⲁⲥⲱⲙⲁ· ⲙⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲛⲁⲧⲟⲙⲥϥ ⲉϩⲏⲧϥ
ⲁϥⲟⲩⲱϣϥ ⲛⲁϥ ⲟⲛ· ϫⲉ ⲱ ⲡⲁϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲛⲛⲉⲓⲱⲧ ϯⲛⲁⲉⲓⲣⲉ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ϩⲱϥ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲧⲉⲕⲛⲁϩⲱⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲧⲟⲟⲧ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩϣⲡ
ⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲣⲟⲥ ⲇⲉ· ⲁϥⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲛϩⲏⲧϥ· ϫⲉ ⲡⲱⲗⲗⲁⲕⲓⲥ ⲉϥϫⲱ ⲙⲡⲁⲓ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲛⲟϭ ⲙⲡⲁⲣⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲓⲁ· ϫⲉ ⲙⲏⲡⲟⲥ
ⲛⲧⲉϩⲟⲓⲛⲉ ⲃⲓ ⲡⲉϥⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲛϫⲓⲟⲩⲉ ⲛⲥⲉⲕⲱⲧ{ⲉ} ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲙⲁⲣⲧⲏⲣⲓⲱⲛ ⲛⲑⲉ ⲉϣⲁⲩⲁⲁⲥ ⲛⲙⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ·
ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ϣⲁϥⲥⲱⲧⲙ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲛϩⲁϩ ⲉⲥⲟⲡ ⲉϥϭⲉⲛ ⲁⲣⲉⲓⲕⲉ [ⲉⲛⲉⲧⲉⲓⲣⲉ ⲛⲁⲩ ⲛⲧⲉⲓϩⲉ·]

'Afterwards, he (Pachomios) turned back to Theodore and spoke with him: ‘If the Lord visits me, do not let my body remain at the place where it will be buried!’ He replied to him in deep sadness: ‘I shall act in accordance with your word.’
Afterwards, he (Pachomios) grabbed his beard and tapped his chest a second time: ‘Theodore, be alert, do not let my body remain at the place where it will be buried!’’ He replied to him again: ‘My fatherly lord, I shall act thankfully in accordance with everything you will order me (to do).’
Theodore thought to himself: ‘He is saying this many times in great exertion, because perhaps some people will steal his body and build for it a memorial shrine (martyrion) just as it is often done with the holy martyrs,’ since he heard him many times reproaching [those who act for them in this manner].”

Ed. Lefort, VS, p. 96, line 1–7 (S7, Pierpont Morgan Codex M 663):
ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲟⲩⲉⲓ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ϩⲓ ⲡⲧⲟⲟⲩ· ⲁⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲣⲟⲥ ϫⲓ ⲛⲉⲙⲁϥ ⲛⲕⲉϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛⲥⲟⲛ ϩⲛ ⲧⲉⲩϣⲏ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲁⲩⲛⲧϥ
ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲛⲧⲁⲩⲧⲟⲙⲥϥ ⲉϩⲏⲧϥ· ⲁⲩⲛⲟϫϥ ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲙⲛ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡⲥⲟⲛ ⲛⲁⲡⲁ ⲑⲉⲱⲇⲱⲣⲟⲥ ⲡⲣϥϫⲓ ⲏⲡⲉ
ⲛⲧⲕⲟⲓⲛⲱⲛⲟⲓⲁ· ⲁⲩⲱ ⲙⲛ ⲗⲁⲁⲩ ⲥⲟⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲛϥⲛϩⲏⲧϥ ϣⲁ ϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲉⲡⲟⲟⲩ ⲛϩⲟⲟⲩ

“After they (the monks) had come down from the mountain (where they had buried him), Theodore took with him three other brethren that night. They brought him (the corpse) down from the place where he was buried. He was sent away with Apa Papnoute, the brother of Apa Theodore, the accountant of the community (koinonia); and nobody knows where he is until this very day.”

Translations: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Pachomius, Egyptian monastic founder, ob. 346. : S00352

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus codex Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex


  • Coptic

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tabennese Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Life of Pachomios

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - abbots

Cult Activities - Relics

Attempts to prevent the veneration of one's relics Bodily relic - entire body


The Sahidic Life of Pachomios is preserved in more than twenty different fragmentary manuscripts. The earliest fragmentary Sahidic manuscripts, S1, S2, and S13 are datable to the 6th and 6th/7th century by their script, many others to the 7th/8th, 9th, 10/11th and 12th centuries. The passages quoted here come from Pierpont Morgan Codex M 663, referred to as S7, a parchment codex datable to the years 820–850 AD.


The earliest version of the Life of Pachomios was probably written in Sahidic, the literary dialect of the time of composition (sometime after Pachomios’ death in 346), or perhaps originally in a local dialect of the region where Pachomios lived. It was written or at least finalised under his successors, Petronios, Horsiesios, and Theodore, and ends with the founder’s death, as is the case with fragment S7 quoted here. Later versions then added stories from the lives of Pachomios’ successors, while some compilers joined the various works of Pachomios to it as well. This results in somewhat different versions of his Life through the centuries, which, however, all focus on the devotion and humility of the founder of a vibrant monastic community, as well as the spiritual power of a holy man. The passages quoted here from the account of the death of Pachomios, if true to the events described, show that the saint feared the development of a cult around his physical remains, insisting on a secret reburial of his body. Similar concerns can be found in the Life of Antony, see E00669. The earliest securely dated reference to martyr shrines (martyria) in Egypt is from the year 398 (see E00713).


Edition: Lefort, L.T., S. Pachomii vitae sahidice scriptae (CSCO 99–100; Louvain, 1933–1934). Further reading: Rousseau, P., Pachomius: The Making of a Communitiy in Fourth-Century Egypt (Berkeley, 1999). Veilleux, A., Pachomian Koinonia I: The Life of Saint Pachomius and His Disciples (Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1980). Veilleux, A., “Pachomius, Saint”, in: A. S. Atiya (ed.), The Coptic Encyclopedia, vol. 6 (New York et al., 1991), 1859–1864.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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