Infobox Saint
name=Saint Hilarion
feast_day=October 21
venerated_in=Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Coptic Church

birth_place=Thabatha, south of Gaza in Palestine
St. Hilarion (291-371) was an anchorite who spent most of his life in the desert according to the example of Saint Anthony of Egypt.

Early life

Hilarion was born in Thabatha, south of Gaza in Palestine of pagan parents. He successfully studied rhetorics with a Grammarian in Alexandria. It seems that he was converted to Christianity in Alexandria. After that, he shunned the pleasures of his day-- theatre, circus and arena--and spent his time attending church. According to St. Jerome, he was a thin and delicate youth of fragile health.

Beginnings of Monastic Life

After hearing of Saint Anthony, whose name "was in the mouth of all the races of Egypt" (according to St. Jerome), Hilarion, at the age of fifteen, went to live with him in the desert for two months. As Anthony's hermitage was busy with visitors seeking cures for diseases or demonic affliction, Hilarion returned home along with some monks. At Thabatha, his parents having died in the meantime, he gave his inheritance to his brothers and the poor and left for the wilderness.

His Time at Majoma

Hilarion went to the area southwest of Majoma, the port of Gaza, that was limited by the sea at one side and marshland on the other. It was the abode of robbers.With him he took only a shirt of coarse linen, a cloak of skins given to him by St. Anthony, and a coarse blanket. He led a nomadic life, subsisting only on dried figs, which he ate after sunset.

After he was beset by carnal thoughts, he reduced his diet to the juice of herbs and less figs. Cold showers not being available, he took to praying, singing, the hoeing of the soil and the production of baskets made from rushes. Although he was quite starved, "so wasted that his bones scarcely held together" (Jerome) he still had visions of naked women, voluptuous meals, chariots and gladiatorial contests. Often he heard voices, of infants or of domestic animals, which he identified as demons.

He finally built a hut of reeds and sedges in which he lived for four years. Afterwards, he constructed a tiny low-ceilinged cell, "a tomb rather than a house", where he slept on a bed of rushes, and recited the bible or sang hymns.

He never washed his clothes, changed them only when they fell apart and shaved his hair only once a year. He was once visited by robbers, but they left him alone when they learned that he did not fear death (and had nothing worth stealing, anyway), promising to mend their ways.

Jerome gives a detailed account of his diet:
*from 20-23: half a pint of lentils moistened with cold water
*23-27: dry bread with salt and water
*27-30: wild herbs and roots
*31-35: six ounces of barley bread, and boiled vegetables without oilAfter that, he suffered from signs of malnutrition, his eyesight grew poor, his body shrivelled and he developed dry mange and scabs, so he had to slightly modify his diet.
*35-63: six ounces of barley bread, and boiled vegetables with oil
*63-80: six ounces of water, boiled vegetables with oil and a broth made from flour and crushed herbs, taken after sunset

After he had lived in the wilderness for 22 years, he became quite famous in Palestine. Visitors started to come, begging for his help.


His first miracle was when he cured a woman from Eleutheropolis (a Roman city in Palestine) who had been barren for 15 years. Later, he cured blindness, raised children from the dead, healed a paralysed charioteer, and expelled demons. He even cured horses affected by evil magic and tamed a mad Bactrian Camel.


In time, a monastery grew around his cell, which was so beset by visitors, especially females, that Hilarion fled.

After numerous adventures, always beset by enthusiastic visitors seeking his help, Hilarion died in Cyprus in 371 AD.


In 390 AD at Bethlehem, Jerome wrote of Hilarion's life. According to Jerome, Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis, had already described his virtues in a well-known letter, which has not been preserved.See also St. hilarion-Aziz Hilarion in Templos- legends of CyprusSt. Hilarion Castle in Turkish: "101 houses", see the article Templos


Hermann Hesse adapted a biography of St. Hilarion as one of the three "Lives of Joseph Knecht"', making up his Nobel Prize winning novel "The Glass Bead Game" (also known as "Magister Ludi").

External sources

* [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3003.htm The life of St. Hilarion]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07347a.htm The life of St. Hilarion from Catholic Encyclopedia]

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