the non-Chalcedonian patriarchs in time of persecution, especially under the turbulent years of the emperor Heraclius (regn. 610-41). The Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641 confirmed the monastic imprint on the entire Church of Egypt.


Due to the very special ecclesiastical position of Palestine after the building activities ofHelena and Constantine and the rapid growth ofpilgrimage to the holy sites in the fourth century, monastic developments followed very different lines here than in Egypt. From its beginnings, monasticism in Palestine was international and multicultural. Pilgrims from all over the Christian world settled in and around the holy places and established monasteries functioning as hostels and houses of prayer adjacent to the churches. These were naturally dependent on the support of wealthy families and the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Also the strong desert tradition, especially of Judaea, was largely controlled by the hierarchy and dependent on imperial support.32 Due to the various backgrounds of the monks there were linguistic barriers and soon Latins, Syrians, Armenians and Georgians established their own monasteries with prayers in their own languages. Monastic leaders were thus often foreigners and the monasteries by and large did not have much relation to each other. The major exceptions were the monasteries founded by or closely related to John Saba (439-532X33 the greatest figure in early Palestinian monasticism.

No documentary or archaeological evidence has yet appeared that can convincingly demonstrate any monastic settlements or institutions before the middle of the fourth century. The tradition that Chariton was the first monk in Palestine and settled in the Judaean desert before the time of Constantine depends solely on the hagiographical account of his life written in the sixth century.34 His name is, however, preserved in the place names of some of the earliest monastic sites in Judaea (e.g., Wadi Khureitun, Khirbet Khureitun and Mu'allak Khureitun) and this fact tends to corroborate the view that he was a historical figure who lived a monastic life in the desert in the middle of that century.35 The sources are also meagre for Hilarion, who is claimed by Jerome to have been the first monk in Palestine, establishing himself near Gaza around 310; we are mainly dependent on Jerome's story of his life written in the

32 On monasticism in Palestine see Derwas Chitty, The desert a city and John Binns, Ascetics and ambassadors of Christ.

33 See Joseph Patrich, Sabas, Leader of Palestinian monasticism.

34 See Life of Chariton, ed. Garitte. For a survey of archaeological evidence on the monastic settlement of this region, see O. Sion, 'The monasteries of the "Desert of the Jordan"'.

35 For references to the Life of Chariton and the sites, see Chitty, The desert a city, 14-15.

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