Saints in Art – Saint Anthony and Saint Paul the Hermits

statue of Saint Anthony the Abbot; date and artist unknown; Gandesa, Spain; photographed on 17 January 2015 by Marc Jornet Niella; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born at Alexandria, in the third century, he was early left an orphan, with an only sister. He divided his inheritance with her, sold his portion, and went to live among hermits. According to the legend he was tormented grievously by demons, who tempted him with every worldly delight, rich clothing, delicious viands, and beautiful women appeared before him, but by prayer he overcame them. Then they assumed the hideous shapes of monsters, serpents, and every kind of poisonous animal, and these tormented him, but Christ comforted him. He fled to a more secluded cavern, where he lived for twenty years, without human intercourse of any kind. Then he came out of his solitude, and preached and taught, performing miracles, and persuaded many to become his disciples. When he had lived for seventy-five years in the desert, he was told in a vision of Saint Paul, the hermit, who had been living in penance for ninety years, and he at once resolved to go to see him. So he set out across the desert. After journeying several days, and meeting on the way a centaur and a satyr, he came at last to a cave in the rocks, where Saint Paul dwelt, beside a stream and a palm-tree. The two men embraced, and Saint Paul inquired of the world since he had left it. While they talked, a raven came, bringing a loaf of bread in its beak. Saint Paul said that it had come every day for sixty years, but that to-day the portion was doubled. He then told Saint Anthony to go back to his monastery, and fetch a cloak that had been given him by Saint Athanasius, the bishop, for he was about to die, and wished to be buried in it. So Saint Anthony set out, and as he was returning with the cloak he saw a vision of Saint Paul ascending to heaven, and on his arrival at the cave he found his body, dead, in the attitude of prayer. He had no strength left to dig a grave, but two lions came and dug it with their paws, and Saint Anthony wrapped the body in the cloak and buried it. He died fourteen years later, and was buried secretly, according to his wish.

He is represented as very old, in his monk’s habit (as the founder of monachism), often with a crutch, and aspergilly or a hell (to exorcise evil spirits), and a pigy to represent sensuality and gluttony overcome by him.

Saint Paul is very old, with long white hair, half naked, his only garment of matted palm leaves, sometimes with a raven and a stream.

MLA Citation

  • Margaret E Tabor. “Saint Anthony the Hermit and Saint Paul”. The Saints in Art, with Their Attributes and Symbols, 1913. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 April 2020. Web. 4 August 2021. <>