Pachomius

c.287-346. Egyptian pioneer of cenobitic monasticism. After a pagan upbringing at Latopolis in the Upper Thebaid, he was won to Christianity while a military conscript by the kindness of the Christians of Thebes, and after his release was baptized at Chenoboskion (Shenesit, near Nag Hammadi). For a few years he learned the solitary life under the anchorite Palamon before settling at the abandoned village of Tabennisi c.320 to fulfill his vision of an ascetic koinomnia patterned on the primitive Jerusalem community. By the time of his death thousands of monks in eleven monasteries within a radius of sixty miles to north and south along the Nile (not all of his foundation, some apparently antedating Tabennisi), including two for women (his sister Mary followed his example), obeyed his direction as superior of the congregation, observed his rudimentary rule, and gathered each Easter and August in general assembly at Pboou, his second settlement and headquarters from c.337.

Details of his life and evolving Pachomian monasticism remain contested while the value of various sources, especially Greek and Coptic Lives, is still debated. The Rule, which survives complete only in Jerome's Latin version, consists of four series of Pracepta and grew up as a collection of ad hoc regulations not only in Pachomius's lifetime but also under his successors Theodore (d.368) and Horsiesius (d.380). The moderate regime reflects the continuing appeal of the solitary ideal. The monasteries appear as self-sufficient, profitable agricultural colonies or manufacturing complexes, whose hierarchical organization perhaps bears a military stamp. Within the enclosure the monks were allotted according to their skills to houses of thirty-to-forty each which formed the basic unit of community life. Instruction in and memorizing of Scripture were prominent, two daily offices and a weekly Eucharist, were observed though Pachomius resisted ordained monks. His achievement, which through the Rule exerted a wide influence in East and West, still left to Basil the Great* a nobler realization of Christian ideals of community and service.

Best edition of Rule in A. Boon and L.T. Lefort, Pachomiana Latina (1932). Other works in L.T. Lefort, Oeuvres de S. Pachõme et de ses disciples (1956). For Lives see J. Quasten, Patrology 3, pp. 154-59, and A. Veilleux, La Liturgie dans le Cénobitisme Pachõmien au Quatrième Siècle (1968). See D.J. Chitty, The Desert a City (1966).