The Greek inscription identifies the figure of the man as the saint father Amone the anchorite from Thone. It is one of the most beautiful early paintings from the cathedral. At the same time, it is one of only two known depictions of this Egyptian ascete from the fourth century AD
It was St Anthony the Anchorite who encouraged young Amone to take up the hardships of ascetic life when appearing in Amone’s dream. Having accepted a monastic habit, Amone made his way to Tuna Mountain (Tuna el-Gebel) in Central Egypt. He lived the life of an anchorite for many years there, effectively fighting against diabolic temptations. For instance, he resisted the persuasions of a seductive woman. She converted and accompanied the saint throughout the following eighteen years, during which she never raised eyes to look at him and never ate anything else than bread and salt. With time passing, a monastery replaced the hermitage. It still functioned in the fifteenth century AD.
Depicting Amone raising his hands in prayer, the painter chose a formula typical for portraits of sainted monks. The anchorite’s costume – a tunic, a triangular apron tied in the waist and covering the right hip and a short coat on his shoulders – suggests that Amone observed the rule of St Pachomius. The thick rope hanging on his arm was most likely used by him to suspend his tunic during work – mostly, simple daily tasks, like basket weaving or rope and cord weaving. In the life of Egyptian anchorites the combination of arduous labour, hours of prayer and mortifications was aimed at spiritual strengthening in the fight against evil forces, according to the rule, the weaker the body, the stronger the spirit. A belief persevered among Egyptian Christians that the intercession of ascetes is particularly effective, and so their portraits were frequently painted on the walls of churches and chapels, where they encouraged the faithful to pray and to imitate the sainted men in daily life.