Saint Sabbas was born in the town of Caesarea Mazaca, Cappadocia (Modern Day Turkey). The town's name in Aramaic (Mata la Zkha) translates to the Village of Victory and we know that Saint Sabbas's father (John) was a military commander. Due to his role in the army, Saint Sabbas's father had to leave for Alexandria when Saint Sabbas was only five and left him in the care of his uncle. At the young age of eight, Saint Sabbas left home and joined the monastery of Bishop Flavian of Antioch and quickly gained a reputation for being extremely smart. His parents, upon their return, begged him to leave the monastery and accept a marraige proposal but he refused and accepted monastic tonsure at 17.
For the next ten years he studied Holy Scriptures at the monastery. At 27, he left for Jerusalem and entered the monastery of Saint Euthymius the Great. After only a year there, Saint Euthymius sent him to a nearby monastery headed by Abba Theoctistus that was known for its extremely strict and disciplined life style. Saint Sabbas enjoyed this life so much that he begged to be allowed to live in seclusion near by and was granted this blessing when Abba Theoctistus passed away. He would only return to the monastery on Saturdays. Saint Euthymius remained his spiritual advisor, and the two would often retreat into the wilderness from January 14th to Palm Sunday each year for reflection and prayer.
When his trusted friend and leader Saint Euthymius died in 473 AD, Saint Sabbas moved into a cave near the monastery of Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan and attracted a following of monks. Soon the crowd was so large that the Great Lavra (cluster of caves or cells for hermits and a church in the middle) sprung up, with the official founding of 474. A group of monks, however, became opposed Saint Sabbas and as the opposition began to encroach on his spiritual life, Saint Sabbas left for Thekoa. He founded several monasteries around town, each reporting miracles that occurred through the prayers of Saint Sabbas.
In 491, Patriarch Salustius of Jerusalem ordained him as a priest and in 464 the same Patriarch named Saint Sabbas archimandrite of all monasteries in Palestina Prima. He is credited for forming the first monastic rule of church services, known as the Jerusalem Typikon.
Saint Sabbas died in 532 AD. Saint John of Damascus was a monk at one of the monasteries Saint Sabbas formed - Mar Saba. In Rome, the church of San Saba is dedicated to him.