Fools and cross-dressers are typical saintly figures of late antique hagiography. They have their origins in the early Eastern – especially the Egyptian – monastic culture, and they are believed to have been in their large majority fictional. Initially they are celebrated in the hagiographical genres of the Apophthegmata Patrum and the Narrationes animae utiles, and they become the protagonists of free-standing Lives. According to a number of scholars, holy fools may be described as the ascetics who wear the ‘mask of foolishness’. The German scholars Ernst Benz, Walter Nigg and Peter Hauptmann in particular argued that the holy fool’s most important characteristic is his mask through which his eccentric behaviour and spirituality might be explained and understood. Holy fools and the cross-dressers whose femininity is revealed before their death are depicted having a life behind the mask. Holy fools’ ‘offstage’ life is lived on a daily basis.