Pachomius, who died at fifty-six, reckoned three thousand monks under his rule; the monasteries of Tabenna soon included seven thousand, and S. Jerome affirms that as many as fifty thousand were present at the annual gathering of the general congregation of monasteries that followed his rule.
"Blessed indeed and worthy of all praise are these men who carry always the cross of the Lord," he replied. After having stayed for some time at Hermopolis, he went with the Abbot Theodore to his monastery of Tabenna, where he was already beloved by all. He took the keenest interest in everything that related to the religious life, even to the work of the humblest brother.
He took counsel with the emperor how to maintain the Catholic faith in Alexandria against the heretical patriarch Theodosius. By the emperor's direction, ordering him to expel Theodosius, Mennas, in 537 or 538, consecrated Paul, a monk of Tabenna, to be patriarch of Alexandria.
Hearing of the arrival of Athanasius, Pachomius came down from his lonely monastery of Tabenna, surrounded by his monks; but he hid himself among them from humility, or from the fear that Athanasius would do him too much honor. The Saint, however, detected the Saint, and they were soon firm friends.
The banks of the river were crowded with bishops, monks and clergy who had come out to welcome their Father. Athanasius landed and, mounted on an ass led by Theodore, Abbot of Tabenna, proceeded to the town escorted by a vast throng of people carrying torches and singing hymns of praise. Here he dismounted, and the monks asked him for his blessing.
In the Upper Thebaid, the vacant island of Tabenna was occupied by Pachomius and fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot successively founded nine monasteries of men and one of women; and the festival of Easter sometimes collected fifty thousand religious persons, who followed his angelic rules of discipline.
One of the most celebrated of these monasteries was on Tabenna, where Pachomius had gathered round him thirteen hundred followers, who owned him as the founder of their order, and gave him credit for the gift of prophecy. His disciples in the other monasteries of Upper Egypt amounted to six thousand more.
At once he told the good news to Athanasius, advising him to go without delay to the new Emperor and ask to be restored to his see. In the meantime they had arrived in safety at Tabenna, where the monks had assembled with joy on hearing of Athanasius' approach. Great was their sorrow when they learned that he had only come to bid them farewell.
Most of them were monks who had flocked in at the Bishop's appeal from the monasteries of the desert, or from the Lauras and hermitages of Kolzum by the Red Sea, or even from Tabenna in Upper Egypt, and whose hoarse voices rent the air with vehement cries of: "Down with the idols! Down with Serapis! Death to the heathen!"
However this may be, the practice of placing the two together under one head seems to be as ancient as monasticism itself. The double monastery in its simplest form was that organisation said to have been founded in the C4 by S. Pachomius, an Egyptian monk. He settled with a number of men, who had consecrated themselves to the spiritual life, at Tabenna, by the side of the Nile.