Saint Alexander the Charcoal Burner

detail from an antique Italian hold card of Saint Alexander the Charcoal BurnerAlso known as

  • Alexander of Comana
  • Alexander of Cuma
  • Alexander the Carbonaio
  • Alessandro….



Well-born, educated, and erudiate 3rd century Greek with philosophical training. Convert to Christianity. To escape his pagan roots and live for God, he left his native area and became a charcoal burner at Comana, Pontus, Asia Minor (in modern Turkey). Noted for being exceptionally ragged and filthy.

When Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus oversaw a council of laymen and religious to pick a bishop for Comana, he told them to ignore outward appearance, and choose the most spiritual person among them. Alexander, dressed in his work rags, and covered in soot and dirt, was dragged forward, apparently as a joke. He tried to play dumb, but when Gregory ordered him to be honest, he admitted his education, his study of the Scriptures, and his life of living as a “fool for Christ.” Scrubbed and robed, the council questioned him, recognized his spiritual wisdom, and chose him as their bishop.

Well-loved by his people, Alexander died a martyr in the persecutions of Diocletian.





Additional Information


Men look upon clothes and the face,
But God looks at the soul and the heart.
Glorious Alexander, a charcoal-burner, was,
With the charcoal-burner, the body is blackened
And from soot, which water cleanses,
In the sinner, the heart is darkened
Which only the fire of faith can cleanse
The fire of faith and the cry of repentance.
It is easier to cleanse the skin of a charcoal-burner
Than the blackened heart of a sinner.
Alexander, with humility, covered
In a cave concealed, as a hidden flame
For laughter, to the gullible world, he was.
The world did not see; Gregory saw,
With an acute spirit, the charcoal-burner discerned
And in him, found a saint,
In the dark cave, a beautiful flame,
Beneath the mask of insanity, great wisdom,
Beneath the dirty soot, a pure heart,
A royal soul in decayed rags.
That the light be hidden, the Lord does not permit,
At the appropriate time, the light proclaims,
For the benefit and salvation of men.
All is wonderful, what God judges.

– Hymn of Praise of Saint Alexander, Bishop of Comana, from the Prologue of Ohrid

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Alexander the Charcoal Burner“. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 October 2021. Web. 27 November 2021. <>