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E00694: Jerome's Life of *Hilarion (anchorite in Palestine and Cyprus, ob. 371, S00099) presents him as a miracle worker, founder of monastic life in Palestine, and hermit looking for solitude in diverse parts of the Mediterranean; the story ends with the theft of Hilarion's body from Cyprus and its burial at Maiuma (near Gaza, Palestine). Written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine), in the early 390s.

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posted on 2015-09-06, 00:00 authored by robert
Jerome of Stridon, Life of Hilarion

In the preface to the the Life of *Hilarion Jerome refers to a sermon in his praise, written by Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (see E00697) and also mentions the unfavourable reactions to the Life of Paul that he himself wrote about 15 years earlier (see E00750). The main body of the Life consists of two major parts. In the first part Jerome, its author, briefly mentions Hilarion's childhood in Palestine and education in Alexandria (ch. 2). Then he presents his meeting with *Antony, brief monastic practice in Antony's community in the desert of Egypt, return to Palestine, and the foundation of a hermitage close to Maiuma, the port of Gaza (all in ch. 2). He describes Hilarion's ascetic exercises (chs. 3-5), fight against demons, and above all miracles of many different kinds, primarily healing the sick and exorcising demoniacs (men and beasts) (chs. 7-20). He also presents Hilarion as the leader of the monks in Palestine. The second part of the Life is a story of Hilarion’s unsuccessful attempts to escape the fame of a miracle-worker and his search for solitude, first in Egypt, then in Sicily, Dalmatia (close to Epidauros, modern Cavtat) and Cyprus (close to Paphos). This story is dotted with accounts of further healings and exorcisms, but also miracles showing Hilarion's power over the elements (all in chs. 21-31).

The last chapters of the Life narrate Hilarion’s death and burial in Cyprus, the stealing of his body by one of his disciples, and its transfer to Maiuma, which is presented in the following way:

Chapters 32-33
Quod postquam Palaestinae sanctus uir audiuit Hesychius, perrexit ad Cyprum, et simulans se uelle habitare in eodem hortulo, ut diligentis custodiae suspicionem accolis tolleret, cum ingenti uitae suae periculo post decem fere menses corpus eius furatus est. Quod Maiumam deferens, totis monachorum et oppidorum turbis prosequentibus, in antiquo monasterio condidit, illaesa tunica, cuculla et palliolo, et toto corpore, quasi adhuc uiueret, integro, tantis que fragrante odoribus, ut delibutum unguentis putares ... Cernas usque hodie miram inter Palaestinos et Cyprios contentionem, his corpus Hilarionis, illis spiritum se habere certantibus. Et tamen in utrisque locis magna quotidie signa fiunt, sed magis in hortulo Cypri, forsitan quia plus illum locum dilexerit.

'When the holy man Hesychius heard [of his death], he went to Cyprus and, to lull the suspicions of the natives who were keeping strict guard, pretended that he wished to live in the same garden, and then in the course of about ten months, though at great peril to his life, stole the saint's body. He carried it to Maiuma; and there all the monks and crowds of townsfolk going in procession laid it to rest in the ancient monastery. His tunic, cowl and cloak, were uninjured; the whole body as perfect as if alive, and so fragrant with sweet odours that one might suppose it to have been embalmed ... Even at the present day one may see a strange dispute between the people of Palestine and the Cypriotes, the one contending that they have the body (corpus), the other the spirit (spiritus) of Hilarion. And yet in both places great miracles (signa) are wrought daily, but to a greater extent in the garden of Cyprus, perhaps because that spot was dearest to him.'

Text: Bastiaensen 1975, 142. Translation: Fremantle et al. 1893.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hilarion, anachorite in Palestine and Cyprus (ob. 371) : S00099

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Bethlehem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Miracle during lifetime Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Healing diseases and disabilities Bodily incorruptibility Miraculous sound, smell, light Miraculous protection - of people and their property Exorcism Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Crowds Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Jerome wrote the Life of Hilarion almost 20 years later than the Life of Paul of Thebes (see $E00750) and with a slightly different purpose. In the Life of Paul he presented his hero as the first hermit, but did not try to establish his cult. In the Life of Hilarion this ambition is clearly seen. In this text Hilarion is shown above all as a powerful miracle-worker whose power did not disappear after his death. On the contrary, it redoubled, since it continued to perform miracles in two places: in the hermitage in Cyprus, where Hilarion had spent the last years of his life and died, and in Maiuma, close to Gaza, where his body was ultimately buried. The posthumous miracles are absent from other 4th century lives of saints, including that of Antony. Both textual and archaeological evidence confirm that the tomb of Hilarion in Maiuma actually became an important cult place.


Edition: Bastiaensen, A.A.R., and Smit, J.W., in: Vita di Martino. Vita di Ilarione. In memoria di Paola (Vita dei santi 4; Milan: Mondadori, 1975), with Italian translation by L. Canali and C. Moreschini. Edition and French translation: Morales, E.M. (ed.), and Leclerc, P. (trans.), Jérôme, Trois vies de moines (Paul, Malchus, Hilarion) (Sources chrétienns 508; Paris: Cerf, 2007). English translation: Fremantle, W.H., Lewis, W., and Martley, W.G., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6 (Buffalo, NY, 1893). Further reading: Vogüé, A. de, Histoire littéraire du mouvement monastique dans l'antiquité. Vol. 2 (Paris: Cerf, 1993), 163-236. Weingarten, S., The Saint's Saints: Hagiography and Geography in Jerome (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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