Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Marcellus, Abbot of the Acœmetes, Confessor


The order of the Acœmetes differed from other Basilian monks only by this particular rule, that each monastery was divided into several choirs, which, succeeding one another, continued the divine office day and night without interruption: whence was derived their name, which signifies in Greek, without sleep. This institute was set on foot by a Syrian nobleman, named Alexander, who had borne an honourable command in the army several years; but renouncing the world in 402, built a monastery upon the banks of the Euphrates, in which he assembled four hundred monks. Coming afterwards to Constantinople, he founded a monastery not far from the city, towards the Euxine sea, in which he governed three hundred monks, whom he divided into six choirs. Alexander died in 430. Bollandus gives his life on the 15th of January, and he is honoured with the title of saint when incidentally mentioned in the Menæa, but his name seems never to have been commemorated in any calendar either of the eastern or western church. His successor John removed his community to a monastery which he built at Gomon, a mile from Constantinople. Saint Marcellus, who was chosen third abbot of this house, raised the reputation of this order to the highest pitch. He was a native of Apamea in Syria, and, by the death of his parents, who were rich and of noble descent, he was left master of a plentiful fortune when he was in the flower of his age. Considering seriously with what vanities the little interval between a man’s birth and his death is usually filled in the world, he conceived a great distate of its fooleries, and repairing to Antioch, made sacred studies, and the exercises of devotion, his whole employment. By holy meditation he saw daily more and more clearly the emptiness of all worldly occupations and enjoyments. An infant with all its childish toys about it, thinks itself happy; and what are these, if compared to those fooleries which in manhood are called business or amusements? From this contempt of earthly things, his love of those which are heavenly, daily grew stronger; and it was not long before he bestowed on the poor his whole personal estate, and settled his real estate upon a younger brother. Thus disencumbered, he repaired to Ephesus, and there put himself under the direction of certain eminent servants of God. The greatest part of the night he spent in prayer, and the day he employed in copying good books, by the sale of which he gained not only his own subsistence, but also wherewith to relieve the poor. The reputation of the austerity and solitude of the Acœmetes drew him thither; and taking the habit, he ran in a religious course with incredible ardour.

Upon the death of Alexander, the founder and first abbot, Marcellus had been chosen to fill his place, had he not concealed himself by a timely flight. When he returned, John, who had been chosen abbot, compelled him to be his assistant in the discharge of his office; and upon his demise Marcellus was raised to that dignity. The Order flourished exceedingly under his prudent and saintly administration; and when he was at a loss how sufficiently to enlarge his buildings, he was abundantly supplied with means for that purpose by Pharetrius, a very opulent gentleman, who took the habit with all his sons on the same day. About the year 465, Studius, a nobleman who had been consul in 463, founded for him and his monks a great monastery within the city, near the golden gate, in which there are said to have been one thousand monks at the same time. This house being called by the founder’s name, the Acœmetes were from that time called Studites. Saint Marcellus assisted at the council of Constantinople, assembled by Saint Flavian against Eutyches, whose heresy our holy abbot condemned, with the prelates who composed that venerable assembly. Saint Marcellus spent sixty years in a monastic state, and his long life was all filled with good works. He died in 485 or 486, and is honoured both by the Latins and Greeks on this day. See his authentic life in Surius, Bulteau, Bonnani, Herman, Scoonbeck, and Helyot.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Marcellus, Abbot of the Acœmetes, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 December 2013. Web. 23 August 2017. <>