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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Senuti, an Anchorite

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Senuti, an anchorite whose history was investigated by E. Revillout in a paper on the Blemmyes ( Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscr. 1874, sér. 1, t. viii. p. 395 ), and still more elaborately in a series of articles in the Revue de l’hist. des religions (1883), Nos. 4 and 5. He was born about the middle of 4th cent. His father was a farmer in Egypt, and Senuti fed his sheep in boyhood. But it was an age when every enthusiast devoted himself to the monastic life. He attached himself to the monastery of Panopolis near Athrebi in Upper Egypt, where he soon attained such fame for sanctity and orthodoxy that Cyril would only set out for the council of Ephesus if he had the company of Senuti and Victor, archimandrite of Tabenna. Zoega, Cat. MSS. Coptic Mus. Borg. p. 29, gives us Cyril's account of this affair. Senuti's conduct at the council of Ephesus, as described by his disciple and successor Besa fully justifies the charges of outrageous violence brought by the Nestorian party against their opponents. A lofty throne was in the centre of the hall with the four gospels on it. Nestorius entered with pomp, flung the gospels on the floor, and seated himself on the throne. This enraged Senuti who, snatching up the book, hurled it against the breast of Nestorius with vigorous reproaches. Nestorius demanded who he was, and what brought him to the council, being "neither a bishop, nor an archimandrite, nor a provost, but merely a simple monk." "God sent me to the council," replied Senuti, "to confound thee and thy wickedness." Amid the plaudits of his adherents Cyril at once invested him with the rank and robe of an archimandrite. His career was now marked by miracle. He was wafted on a cloud to Egypt. His fame was everywhere established, and Roman commanders sought his assistance. Thus c. 450 the dux of Upper Egypt, Maximin, hurrying to repel a terrific invasion of the Blemmyes, before he would advance sought the presence of Senuti, who gave Maximin his girdle to wear whenever he joined battle. According to the Coptic MSS. Senuti followed Nestorius with bitter persecution to the last, even offering him personal violence when he lay dying in Egypt.

Senuti lived to be a heretic in the opposite extreme from Nestorius. After the council of Chalcedon he became a Monophysite and a violent partisan of the patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria, dying under Timotheus Aelurus aged 118 years.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Senuti, an Anchorite'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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