Saint Paul the Hermit: The Iconography

St. Paul, Confessor, the first hermit. He was taken into the host of the blessed on January 10. – Roman Martyrology for January 15

In portraits the saint almost invariably wears the "garment of palm-leaves stitched together" described in St. Jerome's Life of Paul the First Hermit. Jerome also says that Paul lived to the age of 113 and was visited each day by a raven that brought him a half-loaf of bread, so a long, white beard and a raven carrying bread are typically used as his attributes, as in the second picture on the right.

Narrative images are of two types. One features the visit of St. Anthony Abbot to St. Paul's hermitage, as in the third picture at right. The other presents Anthony's burial of Paul. In Jerome and in the Golden Legend, Anthony is assisted by two lions who use their paws to hollow out a space in the ground for Paul's body (example). The lions also appear as attributes in some images (example). There is even one image which has tigers.

A number of late- and post-medieval portraits lean on the general iconography of contemplatives – skulls, crucifixes, and such (example).

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

HOME PAGE


Mosaic in St. Mark's, Venice (See description page)


St. Paul and his raven (See description page)


St. Anthony Visits St. Paul, 1510 (See description page)


In a 14th-century predella (See description page)

DATES

  • Feast day: January 15
  • Died about 345

NAMES

  • Also known as St. Paul of Thebes and (rarely) as St. Paul the Anchorite

HAGIOGRAPHY

ALSO SEE