St Baradates, Syrian Hermit

February 22 is the commemoration of St Baradates (Baradatus).
syrian desert
St Baradates (died circa 460) was a hermit who lived in the Diocese of Cyrrhus in Syria, and whose bishop, Theodoret, called him “the admirable Baradates.” Baradates lived in a tiny hut, too small for him to stand upright, and he wore a leather garment that exposed only his mouth and nose. He was said to have been very learned, particularly in theology. Emperor Leo wrote him, asking his advice regarding the Council of Chalcedon.
syrian desert 2
Saint Baradates the Syrian began to live as a desert-dweller in a hut near Antioch. He then built a stone cell upon a hill, so cramped and low that the ascetic could stand in it only in a stooped position. It had neither window nor door, and the wind, rain and cold came in through the cracks, and in summer he was not protected from the heat.
After many years Patriarch Theodoretos of Alexandria urged the monk to leave the cramped hut. Then the saint withdrew into a new seclusion: covered in leather from head to foot with a small opening for his nose and mouth, he prayed standing with hands upraised to heaven. The grace of God strengthened him in his works and purified his heart from passions. People began to flock to him for spiritual counsel, and St Baradates with deep humility guided them. Having acquired many spiritual gifts, St Baradates departed to the Lord in peace in 460.
syrian desert 3
“Among the lesser known ascetics was a very faithful figure known as Baradatus. He lived in the 5th century in the Syrian desert. Almost nothing is known about him, and what little information we do possess comes from the writings of Theodoret, who was the Bishop of Cyrrhus, in Syria. It is through his “Religious History” that we can learn with great interest about the types of penance he devised for himself.
Like most hermits in the 5th century, Baradatus fled from the company of people, and sought peace through prayer and meditation, but also through painful ascetic practice, as was very common of the times.
In order to find salvation, Baradatus built a small lattice confin-like structure, made of interwoven pieces of wood. Apparently the device was fashioned in such a way that it had many openings, so as to be open to all the conditions of the weather. As Theodoret writes, the box in “no way conformed to the dimensions of a human body, but in which he had to live bent double, for neither its depth nor its lenght was of a convenient size.”
Baradatus had crawled into the tiny torture device, in wich he lived in a very unpleasent manner. We have no way of knowing his daily schedule, as Theodoret nor any other person who came to visit him has left us any information. We do not know how he got his food. Was it brought to him or did he get out of the box and go fetch his food from a nearby garden? We can probably be suret that whatever he ate it was very meager, and very rare. Most ascetics of the period ate maybe once a day, and some who were very devout only ate on Sundays, and gave whatever they had to the poor or their visitors. Often hermits of the desert lived near open streams, where they had small vegetable gardens and lived off their gardens year round, and their diets consisted of an almost vegan menu.
We do not know how Baradatus lived for most of the day. Did he get out of the box when he needed to empty himself of waste? Or did he simply leave the waste in the living coffin, thus making the endurance even more troubling?
We do know that he must have suffered from tremendous burns, as the Syrian desert is unbearably cruel. The burn marks must have left great swelling on his body, and it must have also been uneven because of the lattice design.
However devout Baradatus was, when Theodotus who was the Bishop of Antioch showed up and saw the conditions in which the holy man was living he ordered him to come out of this enclosure and to serve God in other ways. This must have happened sometime in the 420s, because we know that Theodotus was the Bishop of the See of Antioch in the 420s.
But nevertheless Baradatus continued to labor for the sake of his and the world’s salvation. The desire for penance made him devise an even more painful form of worship. Having woven a body suite out of leather, he put it on and was completely covered from head to toe, with only openings for the nose and mouth so as to breathe. He could not even see.
Baradatus lived in this suit until his final days. But not only did he wear the suit, he also chose to stand, without moving, with his arms stretched to the skies.
We know that Baradatus was very ill for a large part of his life, however we are not sure if these illnesses came to him because of his ascetic practices or because of other means….
Baradatus appears as a fantastic being from the past. One can imagine the lonely figure, subjecting himself to the boiling conditions of the Syrian desert. One wonders what thoughts and prayers were uttered in such states of bleak existance. Theodoret talks about the fact that he was a wise man, and that apparently when speaking with him, he showed the keen sense of wisdom and reasoning comparable with one who has studied the “labyrinthes” of Aristotle. However, one wonders what reasoning Baradatus offered for the self-torture devices that he placed upon himself? Whatever his reasoning, we do know that he was not mad, but found peace through such an existance.”
syrian hermits caves
(about a.d. 460.)

[Greek Menaea. Authority : Theodoret, in his Philotheus, c. 27; who wrote whilst Baradatus was still alive, and from personal knowledge of him and his manner of life.]

S. Baradatus held so high a position among the solitaries of Syria, that the Emperor Leo, wishing to know the opinion of the Eastern Church touching the council of Chalcedon, wrote to him, as well as to S. Simeon Stylites and S. James the Syrian. All we know of him is derived
from the account left us by Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, who calls him the admirable Baradatus, and says that he manifested his ingenuity in discovering new austerities.
Baradatus at first dwelt in a hut, but afterwards he ascended a rock and built himself a cabin, so small that he was unable to stand upright in it, and was obliged to move therein bent nearly double. The joints of the stones were, moreover, so open that it resembled a cage, and exposed him to the sun and rain. But Theodosius, patriarch of Antioch, ordered him to leave this den, and the hermit, at his advice, chose one more commodious. He spent most of his time in prayer, with his hands raised to heaven. His clothing was of leather, which covered him so completely that only his nose and mouth were visible. Theodoret says
that his knowledge of heavenly things and doctrinal perspicuity were very remarkable. His answer to the Emperor Leo is found appended to the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon. “
S. Baring Gould “The Lives of the Saints” (1914) at

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