Saint Anthony

(c. 250—355)

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(c. 251–356),

Egyptian hermit, the founder of monasticism. During his seclusion in the Egyptian desert he attracted a number of followers whom he organized into a community; his hermit life is also noted for the temptations he underwent, especially from demons in the guise of beautiful women. He is said to have visited, and arranged the burial of, St Paul, the first Christian hermit (see St Paul2).

In the Middle Ages the belief arose that praying to St Anthony would effect a cure for ergotism, and the Order of Hospitallers of St Anthony (founded at La Motte c.1100, with members of the Order wearing black robes marked by a blue tau cross) became a pilgrimage centre. The little bells rung by Hospitallers asking for alms were afterwards hung round the necks of animals as a protection against disease, and pigs which belonged to the Order were allowed to roam about the streets (see tantony pig). His traditional emblems are pigs and bells, and he is the patron saint of basket-makers and swineherds. His feast day is 17 January.

St Anthony's cross another name for the tau cross, worn by the Order of Hospitallers of St Anthony of Egypt.

St Anthony's fire a name for inflammation of the skin due to ergot poisoning, reflects the belief that St Anthony could cure the illness.

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