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The pig of Saint Anthony (page 80)

Saint Anthony was born in Egypt in the third century AD into a wealthy family. At the age of twenty both his parents died, leaving him all of their possessions. Upon hearing the Gospel, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast", he sold all of his belongings and devoted himself to a life of asceticism (devoting oneself to religion, denouncing material goods and leading a life of strict discipline). After selling all of his possessions, he went to live in a tomb near his home town.

Image of Saint Anthony.

Source URL: http://www.pbase.com/lorin/image/35897264/medium

It is recorded that Saint Anthony had violent encounters with demons, taking the form of wild beasts. These encounters sometimes nearly killed Saint Anthony. Later in his life, after attracting much attention from the religious, which including many monks and pilgrims, Saint Anthony established a monastery on top of a mountain in the desert named Der Mar Antonios. Much of his life was lived in complete solitude; he went twenty years without even seeing the face of another man. His death is estimated to be between 356 and 357 AD, making him about 105 years old at the time of death. For fear that his relics would become worshiped, Saint Anthony requested that the location of his grave be kept secret.

Saint Anthony’s feast day is celebrated on January 17th and he is especially celebrated in the Catalan-speaking regions of Spain and on the Island of Mallorca. For his feast day many bonfires, also called foguerons, are lit, while townsfolk dressed in devil costumes parade around the fire. The devils try to throw Saint Anthony into the fire, but lose the battle with the saint, symbolizing the victory of Christianity over pagan religions.

Also the patron saint of domesticated animals, Saint Anthony is often depicted standing next to a pig, which he supposedly healed. The day after the festival on January 17th, all of the townspeople bring their animals to the church to be blessed, guaranteeing the good health and fertility of their animals. There is also a strong tradition to save one pig from every litter from the slaughter, ensuring that the pig goes to church every year to be blessed, creating the expression “to come back more times than the pig of Saint Anthony”.

Sculpture showing Saint Anthony's pig.

Source URL: http://www.pbase.com/image/42551583

For further information, go to:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01553d.htm

http://www.aug.edu/augusta/iconography/anthonyAbbot.html

http://www.thebookofdays.com/months/jan/17.htm

 


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