We know from the ‘Life of Antony’ that our great hermit, when he ventured into this wilderness to seek greater seclusion, discovered a natural cave in the mountain and loved it and hence made it his home for the remaining 43 years of his life.

Today, as in time past, this cave within which St Antony dwelt, is the life force and heart beat of the Monastery, and in which liturgy is celebrated daily, and thousands of pilgrims each year journey to for spiritual nourishment and contemplation.

From the plateau to the cave is a climb of approximately 1 hour, and is today made accessible by means of concrete steps and hand-railing for support. As one climbs the mountain to which St Antony withdrew, one passes the Church of St Paul the Simple, which was constructed over the site of where this disciple of St Antony once lived. St Paul the Simple, a 4th century desert father, known as ‘the Simple’ due to his meek and simple nature, was St Antony’s faithful disciple. Prior to his monastic life, he had been married and caught his wife in the act of adultery. Hence he left her and took the decision to consecrate the rest of his life to monastic living. He went to St Antony – who at this time was now 80 years old – and asked that he become a monk. St Antony at first refused him on account of his age (St Paul was 60) and therefore compelled him several times to leave and return to his village, saying he could not survive the harsh ascetical life. And yet, St Paul was so persistent that St Antony have him many demanding and arduous tasks; all of which he fulfilled with such humility, obedience and simplicity that St Antony accepted him into his monastic community and called him the Pride of the Desert, and he bore with honour the title ‘the Simple’. The solitary life gave St Paul the Simple the gift of healing and casting out demons; a power in which he even surpassed his teacher St Antony. The remains of his cave, upon which is built a church in his honour, and is seen on the climb to St Antony’s cave, bears witness to this faithful contemporary of our great hermit. About 100 metres further up, one reaches a terrace, and then St Antony’s blessed cave. 

St Antony’s cave is located about 2 km south-east of the Monastery, 680 metres above the Red Sea and 276 metres above the Monastery. It comprises 3 parts: the terrace, the tunnel, and the cave. The narrow tunnel connects the outer terrace – where one can imagine St Antony would sit and weave his palm leave baskets – with the inner cave where he once dwelt and is now converted into a small chapel.