The Desert Fathers
The Desert Fathers were hermits, ascetics, monks, and nuns (Desert Mothers) who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century CE. The most well known was Anthony the Great, who moved to the desert in 270–271 CE and became known as both the father and founder of desert monasticism. By the time Anthony died in 356 CE, thousands of monks and nuns had been drawn to living in the desert following Anthony’s example—his biographer, Athanasius of Alexandria, wrote that “the desert had become a city”.
The Desert Fathers had a major influence on the development of Christianity. The desert monastic communities that grew out of the informal gathering of hermit monks became the model for Christian monasticism. The eastern monastic tradition at Mt. Athos and the western Rule of St. Benedict both were strongly influenced by the traditions that began in the desert. All of the monastic revivals of the Middle Ages looked to the desert for inspiration and guidance. Much of Eastern Christian spirituality, including the Hesychast movement, had its roots in the practices of the Desert Fathers. Even religious renewals such as the German Evangelicals, the Pennsylvania Pietists, and the Methodist revival in England are seen by modern scholars as being influenced by the Desert Fathers. READ MORE