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E00110: Coptic Life of *Onnophrios, the Anchorite (Egyptian anchorite, 4th c., S00055), written probably in the 5th/6th c. in the Scetis (Lower Egypt), describes miraculous events at the saint's death, and his burial.

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posted on 29.10.2014, 00:00 by dlambert
Paphnoutios of Scetis, Life of Onnophrios, the Anchorite

Paphnoutios describes events at the death of Onnophrios and his burial:

ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥϯ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲡⲛⲁ ⲛⲛϭⲓϫ ⲙⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ϩⲛ ⲥⲟⲩ ⲙⲛⲧⲁⲥⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲃⲟⲧ ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲉ
ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲓⲥⲱⲧⲙ ⲉϩⲉⲛⲫⲱⲛⲏ ⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲉⲩϩⲩⲙⲛⲉⲩⲉ ϩⲓⲑⲏ ⲙⲡⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲟⲛⲛⲟϥⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲉⲣⲉ ⲟⲩⲛⲟϭ ⲛⲟⲩⲣⲟⲧ ϣⲟⲟⲡ ϩⲛ
ⲧⲉϥϭⲓⲛⲁⲡⲁⲛⲧⲁ ⲉⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲓⲕⲁⲧ ⲕⲁϩⲏⲩ ⲛⲧⲁⲗⲟⲃⲏⲧⲉ ⲉⲧⲧⲟ ϩⲓⲱⲱⲧ ⲁⲓϯ ⲛⲧⲉⲥⲡⲁϣⲉ ⲉⲧⲕⲁⲓⲥⲉ ⲧⲕⲉⲡⲁϣⲉ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲓϭⲟⲗⲧ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲛⲛⲉⲓϭⲱ ⲉⲓⲕⲏ ⲕⲁϩⲏⲩ ⲁⲓϯ ⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ ⲉⲡⲟⲩⲱϣ ⲛⲟⲩⲡⲉⲧⲣⲁ ⲁⲓⲥⲱⲧⲙ ⲉⲡⲉϩⲣⲟⲟⲩ ⲛⲟⲩⲙⲏⲏϣⲉ ⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲉⲩⲣⲁϣⲉ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲩⲱϣ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲁⲗⲗⲏⲗⲟⲩⲓⲁ
ⲁⲓϯ ⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲁϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲉϫⲱϥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁⲓϭⲱⲗ ⲛⲟⲩⲁϣⲏ ⲛⲱⲛⲉ ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲉϫⲱϥ ⲁⲓⲁϩⲉⲣⲁⲧ ⲁⲓϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲡⲙⲉϩ ⲥⲡ ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲧⲉⲩⲛⲟⲩ
ⲁⲧⲃⲛⲛⲉ ϩⲉ
ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲓⲣϣⲡⲏⲣⲉ ⲉⲙⲁⲧⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲛⲧⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲉ

'He handed his spirit over to the hands of God on day sixteen of the month Pauni.
I heard angelic voices singing in front of the blessed Apa Onnophrios. There was great joy at his appearance before God. But I took off my garment which I wore. I used its one half for the burial. With the other half I covered myself, so that I would not continue being naked. I laid his body down in the gap of a rock. I heard the voice of an angelic multitude being joyful and calling out, "Alleluia!"
I delivered my prayer over him and collected a number of stones onto him. I stood up and prayed for the second time and immediately the date palm-tree fell. I was very much amazed at what had happened.'

For a summary of the complete text, see $E0089.

Text: Budge, p. 217, fol. 15a–b. Translation: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Onnophrios, Egyptian Anchorite : S00055 Paphnoutios, Egyptian Anchorite : S00063

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲟⲛⲛⲟϥⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus codex Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Sketis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Assumption/otherworldly journey Miraculous sound, smell, light Power over objects

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The Coptic Life of Onnophrios, the Anchorite is known through three complete manuscripts, two in Sahidic: British Library, London, Oriental 7027, fols. 1–21v, from Edfu, with a colophon giving the year 1004/5 (ed. Budge, Coptic Martyrdoms) and Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M580, fol. 1–36, from Hamuli in the Fayum, dated to the year 889/890 (unpublished), one in Bohairic (Vatican Library, Coptic 65, fols. 99–120v, dated to the year 978/979). There are also codex fragments: a papyrus leaf dated on palaeographical grounds to the 7th century (ed. Lefort, 1945, 97–100), a fragmentary papyrus leaf from the end of the story, dated on palaeographical grounds to the 6th/7th century (ed. Orlandi), and two parchment leaves of a codex from the so called White Monastery (ed. Till). There are therefore good reasons to think that the text is 6th century or earlier.


The burial of the anchorite seems just as austere as his life had been. The falling date tree, which would henceforth not supply any more fruit to sustain life in the desert, is the last sign Onnophrios sends to ensure that Paphnoutios does not stay on, but fulfils his mission to make the anchorite’s life known to others in Egypt.


Editions: Budge, E.A.W., Coptic Martyrdoms etc. in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (Coptic Texts 4; London: British Museum, 1914), 205-224. Lefort, L.T., “Fragments coptes,” Le Muséon 58 (1945), 97-120. Orlandi, T., Papiri copti di contenuto teologico (Vienna: In Kommission bei Verlag Brüder Hollinek, 1974), 158-161. Till, W.C., Koptische Heiligen- und Martyrlegenden. Vol. 1 (Rome: Pont. institutum orientalium studiorum, 1935), 14–19. Translations: Vivian, T., Paphnutius, Histories of the Monks of Upper Egypt and the Life of Onnophrius (Cistercian Studies 140; Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1993). [With an introduction and evaluation of the text, as well as an English translation, all three of rather questionable value] Further reading: Coquin, R.-G., “Onophrius, Saint,” in: A.S. Atiya (ed.), The Coptic Encyclopedia. 8 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1991), vol. 6, 1841-1842. O'Leary, De L., Saints of Egypt (London: SPCK, 1937), 210. Sauget, J.-M., “S. Onofrio anacoreta in Tebaide,” Bibliotheca Sanctorum 9 (1987), 1187-1197. Williams, C.A., Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite. Part II: Christian (University of Illinois Studies in Language and Literature 11/4; Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1926). For a full range of the documentary evidence on Onnophrios: Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides (Paris: CNRS, 2001), 161-162.

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