Saint NameHilarion, anachorite in Palestine and Cyprus (ob. 371) : S00099
Saint Name in SourceHilarion
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint
Evidence not before390
Evidence not after393
Activity not before370
Activity not after393
Place of Evidence - RegionAegean islands and Cyprus
Palestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcBethlehem
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Bethlehem
Major author/Major anonymous workJerome of Stridon
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsComposing and translating saint-related texts
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
SourceJerome wrote the Life of Hilarion at the very beginning of the 390s, in the early years of his long stay in Bethlehem. Hilarion died in 371, before Jerome's first visit to the East, so he never met him personally: he probably learnt about the monk of Gaza from Epiphanius of Salamis. The Life presents Hilarion as a founder of monastic life in Palestine, a powerful miracle-worker, and a monk looking all his life for solitude. If the image of the hero and the monastic life presented by Jerome in his earlier life of Paul of Thebes is in many ways polemical to that presented in Athanasius' Life of Antony, Hilarion is depicted as a new, perhaps better, Antony: the polemic is gone. It is interesting to remark that in the Life of Hilarion Jerome aims to promote a posthumous cult of his hero: he mentions the miracles which occur both at his tomb in Maiuma, close to Gaza, and at the place of his first burial at Cyprus. Such a goal is not infrequent in later lives of holy monks, but at the end of the 4th century it was uncommon; in the Life of Antony we can see a desire to prevent the cult of its hero rather than to promote it, and the cultic aspect is also absent in Jerome's Lives of Paul and Malchus.
DiscussionEpiphanius of Salamis had many occasions to meet Hilarion since before his election to the bishopric of Salamis in Cyprus(365/367): he was the head of the monastery in Besanduk, close to Eleutheropolis, midway between Hilarion's Gaza and Jerusalem. Even after his episcopal ordination he frequently visited Palestine, so it is possible that the letter praising Hilarion was written there. We do not know how widely actually this letter circulated. Its text did not survive and we know about it only thanks to Jerome's reference.
Bastiaensen, A.A.R., and Smit, J.W., in: Vita di Martino. Vita di Ilarione. In memoria di Paola (Vita dei santi 4; Milan: Mondadori, 1975), with Italian translation by L. Canali and C. Moreschini.
Edition and French translation:
Morales, E.M. (ed.), and Leclerc, P. (trans.), Jérôme, Trois vies de moines (Paul, Malchus, Hilarion) (Sources chrétienns 508; Paris: Cerf, 2007).
Fremantle, W.H., Lewis, W., and Martley, W.G., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6 (Buffalo, NY, 1893).
Vogüé, A. de, Histoire littéraire du mouvement monastique dans l'antiquité. Vol. 2 (Paris: Cerf, 1993), 163-236.
Weingarten, S., The Saint's Saints: Hagiography and Geography in Jerome (Leiden: Brill, 2005).