Saint Athanasius the Athonite

ancient Russian wall painting of Saint Athanasius the AthoniteMemorial


Studied at Constantinople. Monk at Saint Michael’s monastery, Kymina, Bithynia, taking the name Athanasius. Fearing that the was going to be chosen abbot, Athanasius fled to Karyes, changed his name, claimed to be illiterate, and hid in his cell. Hermit in a cave at Mount Athos, Greece in 958.

Athananius helped his old friend from Constantinople, Nicephorus Phocas, prepare an expedition against the Saracens in 961, serving as almoner to the fleet. Phocas gave Athanasius part of the money raised, and the hermit used it to found a monastery on Athos in 963. This was to be an idiorhythmic house where anchorites, hermits, and monks could live in community, but without the requirements for group activity common to other monasteries.

At the same time the monastery was being dedicated, his old friend Phocas became emperor. Fearing he would be called to serve at the imperial court, Athanasius fled to Cyprus. Phocas found him, assured the monk that he would be allowed to continue his religious life in peace, and helped finish work on the monastery. Though he faced opposition in the founding of this house, which ended only by imperial decree, the monastery flourished. Athanasius insisted on Bible study, founded a school and large library, and he personally planted hundreds of trees on the grounds. Eventually there were 58 communities on the mountain, and thousands of holy men still live there today.


  • c.920 at Trebizond as Abraham


  • c.1003 when the arch of a church under construction fell on him and five of his monks
Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Athanasius the Athonite“. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 June 2020. Web. 27 October 2020. <>