Collection: St. Athanasius the Great

ARTIST: Br. Robert Lentz, OFM


Though he was born into a pagan family in Alexandria, Egypt, St. Athanasius chose to become a Christian when he was still a child. Before he was 20, he wrote a treatise affirming that Jesus Christ was both God and man. Several years later, he accompanied the patriarch of Alexandria to the Council of Nicea as a deacon, where he became the leading defender of orthodox belief. Three years later he himself became patriarch of Alexandria, a position he held for 45 years. He spent his entire life defending the doctrines affirmed by the Council of Nicea against the Arians. Seven times heretics forced him into exile, so that he spent 16 years of his time as patriarch away from his see--sometimes living with monks in remote areas of the Egyptian desert. He wrote a biography of St. Anthony of Egypt, which became a source of inspiration for Christian monks, both East and West.

In this icon he is holding a scroll with the opening words of the Nicene Creed.

His feast day is May 2

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St. Athanasius, also called Saint Athanasius of Alexandria or Saint Athanasius the Apostolic, (born c. 293, Alexandria—died May 2, 373, Alexandria; feast day May 2), theologian, ecclesiastical statesman, and Egyptian national leader. He was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism, the heresy that the Son of God was a creature of like, but not of the same, substance as God the Father.

His important works include The Life of St. Antony, On the Incarnation, and Four Orations Against the Arians.