Saint Anthony the Roman was born at Rome in 1067 to rich parents who adhered to the Orthodox Faith, and they raised him in piety. After losing his parents at age 17, he took up the study of the Fathers in the Greek language. Afterwards, he distributed part of his inheritance to the poor, and the other portion he put into a wooden barrel and threw it into the sea. Then he was tonsured at one of the wilderness monasteries, where he lived for 20 years.
A persecution of the Latins against the Orthodox forced the brethren to separate. Saint Anthony wandered from place to place until he came upon a large rock upon the shore of the sea, where he lived for a whole year in fasting and prayer. On September 5, 1105 a terrible storm tore away the stone on which Saint Anthony stood, and threw it into the sea. By divine Providence, the stone floated to Novgorod. On the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, the stone halted 3 versts from Novgorod on the banks of the River Volkhov near the village of Volkhov. This event is testified to in the Novgorod Chronicles.
At this place the monk, with the blessing of Saint Nikita the Hermit (May 14), founded a monastery in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. In another year, fishermen recovered the barrel containing Saint Anthony’s inheritance, cast into the sea many years before. The saint recognized his barrel, but the fishermen did not want to give it to him. Before a judge, Saint Anthony described the contents of the barrel, and it was returned to him. The saint used the money to buy land for the monastery. Spiritual asceticism was combined at the monastery with intense physical labor.
Saint Anthony was concerned that help should be given to the needy, orphans and widows from monastery funds. In 1117, the saint built a stone church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. The church, built during the lifetime of Saint Anthony in the years 1117-1119 by the renowned Novgorod architect Peter, and adorned with frescoes in the year 1125, has been preserved to the present time. In 1131, Saint Niphon of Novgorod made Saint Anthony igumen of the monastery. He died on August 3, 1147 and was buried by Saint Niphon.
Saint Anthony was glorified in 1597. His memory is also celebrated (uncovering of his relics) on the first Friday after the Feast of the Foremost Apostles Peter and Paul (June 29), and on January 17, on the same day that Saint Anthony the Great is commemorated. The first Life of Saint Anthony the Roman was written soon after his death by his disciple and successor as igumen, the hieromonk Andrew. A Life, with an account of the uncovering of the relics, was written by a novice of the Antoniev monastery, the monk Niphon, in the year 1598.