Paphnutius of Thebes

Paphnutius of Thebes

Infobox Saint
name= Saint Paphnutius of Thebes
death_date=4th century AD
feast_day= April 19
venerated_in= Eastern Orthodox Church;
Greek Catholic Church;
Roman Catholic Church


Paphnutius of Thebes, also known as Paphnutius the Confessor, was bishop of a city in the Upper Thebaid in the early fourth century, and one of the most interesting members of the First Council of Nicaea in 325. He was a disciple of Saint Anthony the Great.

Paphnutius had been persecuted for his Christian beliefs, and had suffered mutilation of the left knee and the loss of his right eye for the Faith under the Emperor Maximinus, and was subsequently condemned to the mines. At the First Council of Nicaea, he was greatly honoured by Constantine the Great.

He took a prominent, perhaps a decisive, part in the debate at the First Ecumenical Council on the subject of the clerical celibacy. It seems that most of the bishops present were disposed to follow the precedent of the Council of Elvira prohibiting conjugal relations to those bishops, priests, deacons, and sub-deacons, who were married before ordination. Paphnutius earnestly entreated his fellow-bishops not to impose this obligation on the orders of the clergy concerned. He proposed, in accordance "with the ancient tradition of the Church", that only those who were celibates at the time of ordination should continue to observe continence, but, on the other hand, that "none should be separated from her, to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united". The great veneration in which he was held, and the well known fact that he had himself observed the strictest chastity all his life, gave weight to his proposal, which was unanimously adopted. The council left it to the discretion of the married clergy to continue or discontinue their marital relations. In addition, Paphnutius was a zealous defender of Orthodoxy in the face of the Arian heresy.

Paphnutius also accompanied Saint Athanasius to the First Synod of Tyre in 335 A.D.

His feast is on April 19 [] ; in the Roman Catholic Church It is on September 11.

The very existence of Paphnutius is contested by Friedrich Winkelmann, because he is never mentioned by Athanasius, who also battled against arianism. The "Church History" of Socrates Scholasticus is the only reference for Paphnutius.


* Friedrich Winkelmann: Paphnutios, der Bekenner und Bischof. In: P. Nagel (Hg.): Probleme der koptischen Literatur. Halle 1968, p. 145-153.
* Friedrich Winkelmann: Die Problematik der Entstehung der Paphnutioslegende. In: J. Herrmann: Griechenland - Byzanz - Europa. Berlin 1985, p. 32-42 - (Berliner Byzantinische Arbeiten; 52).



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