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 IMAGESNarrative 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.
PORTRAITSA pair of 14th-century mosaic portraits face each other across the south aisle at St. Mark's, Venice. Paul the Hermit is on the south wall, Hilarion the Great on the north. The latter was a disciple of St. Anthony Abbot and founded monasteries in Gaza. Both stand orant and wear long, white beards. Other late- and post-medieval portraits lean instead on the general iconography of contemplatives – skulls, crucifixes, and such (example).
Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University