Anchorite; Anchoress

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A person who becomes a hermit in order to triumph over the flesh by prayer, contemplation, and mortification. Such a way of life became respected with the great escape to solitude of the fourth and fifth centuries. Gradually the solitary asceticism of Antony developed into the organized monasticism of Pachomius and Basil of Caesarea. Though technically the term “anchorite” could be applied to the monk who had withdrawn from society, it became more precisely used of those who lived as hermits-usually after a period of probation in a monastery. Some, especially in Syria, and most notoriously Simeon the Stylite,* engaged in amazing acts of asceticism in their anchorite existence. As a way of life it was generally considered superior to monasticism. The word is not now quite synonymous with “hermit” and is used of those who live in very confined quarters.