Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Master of St. Veronica- German 1400

Today is the feast of ST. ANTHONY of the DESERT and the day when animals in monasteries around the world are blessed. St. Anthony the Abbot was a hermit-saint in the fourth century who died in the deserts of Egypt. (Not to be confused with St. Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan saint of the thirteenth century.) Legend has it that during his periods of prayer and fasting in the desert, his only companions were the animals.

St Anthony the Abbott was born in Egypt on the banks of the river Nile to a Christian family, and is believed to have lost both his parents, who were very wealthy, at an early age. He then chose to reject the life of luxury his heritage afforded him, giving his riches away to the poor in order to pursue a solitary life of spiritual enlightenment. He is considered the founder of the monastic tradition, garnering a number of disciples in the African desert and setting up monasteries on the banks of the Nile.

He is usually depicted dressed as a monk accompanied by a pig, a dog and a cock, often with the joyful expression for which he was renowned during his lifetime.

The blessing of animals - particularly pigs - is not in fact linked directly to St. Anthony as  the tradition began in Germany, in the Middle Ages, when every village would raise one pig to be given to the local hospital, where the monks of St. Anthony served. St. Anthony is considered to be the  Father of Christian monasticism and the first of the abbots. 

Falling as it does in mid-January, the Feast of St. Anthony is a propitious time for regeneration of the cosmos. The blessing of domestic animals on this feastday was considered auspicious, keeping away harmful forces from the home and land, bringing fertility and fecundity.

Blessing of dogs, cattle & llamas

No comments:

Post a Comment