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E00610: Fragmentary Bohairic Coptic Life of *Pachomios (Egyptian monastic founder, ob. 346, S00352),based to a large extent on the Sahidic Life (E00602); includes miraculous healing activity and visions, a description of Pachomios’ death, and a transfer of his body to a secret location; written in the 9th c.

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posted on 2015-06-18, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Bohairic Life of Pachomius

The text starts with stories from Pachomios’ very particular childhood. Born to pagan parents, he would accidentally frighten and drive away their gods during sacrifice. He would also escape the attempts of the devil wishing to have the young boy killed by a pack of wild dogs, or to commit sin by joining in sexual activity.

It then continues with Pachomios’ conversion to Christianity and his attending to the sick in the village of Sheneste (Chenoboskion), followed by his visit to Apa Palamon, a famous hermit in the neighbourhood in order to learn from him how to live a monastic life. Then follows his vocation at the abandoned village of Tabennese where he hears a voice from heaven ordering him to build a monastery at this place to receive people desiring to live an ascetic life.

Various other visions follow during the course of his adult life, together with numerous attempts by demons to hinder his holy conduct. Men and women suffering from illnesses are healed by his mere presence, by the touch of his garment or his hand, or even by his prayer over oil with which the diseased would then be anointed.

Shortly before his death, Pachomios urges Theodore to take care of his physical remains. But since the section concerning the death of Pachomios is not preserved in the Bohairic Life, the translation of Veilleux in his Pachomian Koinonia, has supplemented that part, chapters 116–123, by using the Pierpont Morgan Codex manuscript in Sahidic Coptic S7 ($E00602).

However, unlike S7, the Bohairic account does not end with Pachomios' death, but continues relating the affairs of his successors. Many chapters later, Theodore in despair over the new riches and possessions acquired by the monastic community (koinonia), prays to the Lord to let him die, so that he does not have to witness the dissolution of his brothers’ souls. He ventures into the mountains to pray to Christ on the grave of Pachomios which (unlike in the Sahidic version of the Life) does not seem to be in a secret location.

Chap. 198:
Ed. Lefort, VB, p. 193, line 8–22:
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'Then one evening one of the senior brothers followed him at a short distance. When he reached the place where the body of our father Pachomios was buried in the mountain, Apa Theodore stood over it and, weeping profusely, he prayed to Christ, saying, "Lord, God, merciful and alone tender-hearted, judge of the living and the dead, you O Lord who know my heart, my thoughts, my conscience, and my goal, may your mercy and your goodness rest on us in the whole sorry state in which we find ourselves. For we have turned from the paths of life and from your laws and your commandments which you gave to our righteous father, over whose holy body I am now standing."'

Translation: Veilleux, Pachomian Koinonia, p. 245–246, slightly modified. Summary: 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


  • 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 - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Condemnation/rejection of a specific cultic activity

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

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


The Bohairic Life of Pachomios (SBo) has been assembled by its editor from many different fragments and manuscripts, with parts of it completed from Sahidic versions of the Life. SBo and the earliest Greek Life (G1) ($E00611) are very similar, though not dependent on each other. They seem rather to be two separate witnesses to a common prototype. The earliest manuscript of the Bohairic Life, SBo, is dated by its script to the late 9th century, while other manuscripts are of a much later and even modern date. Bohairic was adapted as a literary dialect sometime in the 8th century, which offers a terminus post quem for the Bohairic Life. The Life of Pachomius was presumably composed at his monastery in Tabennese (Upper Egypt), under his successors during the second half of the 4th century.


The earlier Sahidic Life of Pachomios included a detailed account of how, at the dying saint’s request, his body was hidden in order to prevent a shrine being built over it (E00602). In our Bohairic Life, the account of the death of Pachomios is not preserved, but the Life continues with added material relating to the subsequent history of the monastery. In this material the secrecy of the whereabouts of Pachomios’ body no longer plays a role, with his successor as abbot, Theodore, able to visit the grave in order to lament the pitiful state of his monastic community. In the incident as described, there is however no mention of a shrine having been built over the grave, and Theodore invokes the aid of Christ directly, rather than through Pachomios as an intermediary. In this account, Pachomios appears as a model monk and abbot, rather than as a powerful intercessor, whose help could be invoked at his grave.


Edition: Lefort, L.T., S. Pachomii vita bohairice scripta (Text: CSCO 89; Louvain, 1925. Latin translation: CSCO 107, Louvain, 1936). 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