Desert Fathers

Desert Fathers were the earliest Christian monks of Egypt. Their names and lifestyle were made famous in the Greek and Latin world through Athanasius’ Life of Anthony; the writings of Jerome, the Life of Pachomius; the anecdotal Lausiac History of Palladius (c. 419); a similar History of the Monks of Egypt; and around the sixth century collections known as Apothegmata Patrum “Sayings of the Fathers.”

The emphasis of all their works is one of asceticism, tempered by quiet devotion. The desert, to them, was a place of extreme spiritual struggle, perhaps of aridity combined with a dependence on God. Their lives were to epitomize the forty days which Jesus is said to have spent in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. A.G.H.


Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 270-271