( 540)
( 530)

 The Thebaid, 15th c., Uffizi

BARSANUPHIUS, the “Great Elder” (or “great old man”) was born in Egypt in the late fifth century.  He lived as a hermit in Gaza, near a monastery that either existed before he arrived, or grew up around him.  He became a famous spiritual director, but was almost never seen.  He stayed in an inner room of his hermitage; and Seridos, abbot of the nearby monastery, served as his principal contact with the outside world.  Seridos would carry questions behind the wall that hid “the great old Man”, and return with written answers, more than six hundred of which have survived.  The answers are models of wisdom and discretion, and provide invaluable insight into Christian ascetical practices of the early sixth century.

MANY of answers in the written collection are by John, a monk who shared Barsanuphius’ hermitage for eighteen years, until John’s death around 530.  Barsanuphius trusted John absolutely, calling him “the prophet”.  In the collection he is called “The Other Elder” (or “the other old man”).  After John's death Barsanuphius withdrew into even greater solitude, and the date of his death is unknown.  He is presumed to have died around 540; but rumors that he was still alive persisted into the seventh century.

This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 1990....x....   “”.