Bishop of Gaza and hermit also called Porphyrius, not to be confused with the thirdcentury Neoplatonist philosopher. Born in Thessalonika, Macedonia, he belonged to a wealthy Greek family but, at the age of twenty five, became a hermit in the desert of Skete, Egypt, later residing on the banks of the Jordan in Palestine, and finally in Jerusalem. With the help of his friend Mark, he gave away all of his inheritance, worked as a humble shoemaker for a time, and then received ordination as a priest. Against his will, he was made bishop of Gaza in 396, proving a brilliant and energetic prelate. One of his chief challenges came from the pagans of the region, but by the end of his life he had extirpated virtually all of the remnants of the old religion. He erected a church on the site of the most prominent pagan temple in the area as a symbol of his victory. His deacon, Mark, authored a biography of the bishop, a genuinely valuable historical document. Porphyrius died in Gaza on February 26.
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By Justin Soutar
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