Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Simeon Stylites -A Saint On A Pillar: History Mystery

Simeon Stylites -A Saint On A Pillar

St. Simeon Stylites or Saint Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite was known as Simeon the Elder. He was born c. 390, Sisan, Cilicia, modern Aleppo, Syria, and died 459, Telanissus, Syria; Western feast day January 5; Eastern feast day September 1. Syrian Christian hermit was the first stylite or pillar hermit. Therefore, people called him 'Simeon the Elder' to distinguish him from other stylites.

Who was Simeon Stylites?

He was a Christian ascetic saint, famous for having his strict devotional life. Besides, he culminated in 37 years on a small platform on top of a pillar in Syria. Their renunciation was like a worship pattern typical in Syriac and Egyptian Christianity.

Biography of Simeon Stylites:

Early life:

Simeon Stylites entered the monasteries of Eusebona and, Telanissos after that. After going there, he stayed for ten years. During these years, he remains engaged in ascetic practices. For instance, he abstained from all food during the 40 days of Lent. But later, he was asked to go from the monastery.

His father was a shepherd. Sis, or the Turkish town of Kozan in Adana Province, is where he was born. The location was in the Roman province of Cilicia. But the Roman Empire was divided in 395 A.D., due to which Cilicia started belonging to the Eastern Roman Empire.

According to Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, when he was 13, he developed a zeal for Christianity. Before the age of 16, he entered a monastery. After being asked to leave the monastery, he lived in a hut for one and a half years. He spent the time without drinking or eating. As soon as he emerged from the hut, what he achieved was hailed as a miracle. 

A Saint On A Pillar


He sought a rocky eminence to live after staying one and a half years in his hut. The slope is now the Sheik Barakat Mountain, part of Mount Simeon. Later he thought to start living within a narrow space, less than 20 meters in diameter.

But pilgrims asked for his advice, prayers, and counsel. As a result, he didn't get sufficient time for his devotions leading him to adopt a new way of life. However, while living at the top of the column, small boys from the nearby village passed him parcels of flatbread and goats' milk by climbing up the pillar. He used to pull up food in buckets via a pulley.

Simeon Stylites Living Top of the pillar:

After that, he became a wandering solitary hermit who always sought to suppress his physical desires. But, in addition, he also used to liberate his spirit via ascetic practices. As a result, he got the attention of both disciples as an itinerant holy man. He attracted those who wanted to follow his spiritual path and those who sought his advice, thinking if he has intercession with God.

Later, he got irritated by the constant questions and pleas. As a result, he climbed onto the top of a 60-feet column, helping him run away from his pursuers, pray, and meditate. Then, he discovered his new refreshing solitude, which mesmerized his mind so much that he refused to come down from the column. He spent his final 30 years on that 60 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter column. Even ha chained himself to the column so he won't fall from there accidentally.

Devoted monks and admirers brought him food. Even pilgrims started visiting there increasingly. Moreover, people interested in seeing a glimpse of the amazing spectacle began coming here. He was known as Simeon "of the column" or Simeon the Stylite for his unusual abode. Style is a Greek word pronounced roughly "stoo-lay," which indicates "column."

Why Did He Stay On The Column? He wanted to escape the crowds of devotees who wanted to get advice and intercession from him. Besides, he tried to subdue all his physical desires through fasting, prayer, and meditation. 

Simeon Stylites


However, occasionally, he conversed with the pilgrims coming from all over the eastern Mediterranean. Sometimes, he advised reconciled enemies, discoursed on theology, and did many other things. He was very popular in those days, and even Roman emperors sought his advice on some important theological issues. For instance, Leo I consulted him in Christological controversies.

He was held in Awe while he died in 459 throughout the Christian world. Even Paris heard the news of his holiness. Qal'at Sim'an, or "fortress of Simeon," which resides near Aleppo in Syria, holds the significance of the power of Simeon's sanctity.

The monastic complex was available earlier on a ridge in the stark Syrian hills. Pilgrims have chiseled down the rest of Simeon's pillar to a stub about 8 feet high. These people visited the site after his death. Moreover, they took small parts of the column as relics of the saint. A vast octagonal shrine encloses this high column. Unfortunately, the dome covering the column collapsed in an earthquake.

Fame and final years of Simeon Stylites:

The imperial court and the Church got the reports of Simeon. He got huge respect from Emperor Theodosius II and his wife Aelia Eudocia. They heard his councils carefully. Besides, Emperor Leo I, paid great attention to his letter regarding the Council of Chalcedon.

Antioch's Patriarch Domninos II (441–448) came to the monk to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the pillar. Theodosius sent three bishops during his illness to come down and allow the physicians to check him. But he left his cure in the hands of God.

A double wall was raised around him to keep people away so they don't come too close and disturb his prayerful concentration. Even his mother was unable to go near him, and however, he asked to bring her coffin to him after her death. Simeon bade his dead mother farewell reverently. On May 12, 2016, a missile hit the pillar within the Church.

Simeon Stylites Legacy: 

He gave inspiration to multiple imitators. For example, ascetics living on pillars were very common throughout the Christian Levant.

He remains memorable as a saint in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches commemorate him on September 1, and the Roman Catholic Church commemorates him on January 5.

Antioch and Constantinople started the contest over the possession of Simeon's remains. In Arabic, the ruins of the vast edifice made in his honor and called the Qalaat Semaan ("the Fortress of Simeon") are still seen. These are about 30 km northwest of Aleppo ((36°20' 36°51')). It contains four basilicas of an octagonal court towards the four points of the compass, looking like a giant cross. You can see the column in the center of the court. It was Antonius, a monk, who wrote his biography.

Traditional sources for the life of Simeon Stylites may misrepresent his relation to Chalcedonian Christianity. For example, Syriac letters in the British Museum attributed to Simeon Stylites indicate that he was a Miaphysite and opposed the result of the Chalcedonian council (Council of Chalcedon AD 451).

On September 2, 459, he died after four decades of austerities atop his pillar. In Syriac vita, the conclusion states that a pervasive breeze signaled his demise.


The pillar and its entire complex were surrounded by four basilica churches, a monastery, a cloister, a graveyard, a processional way, and a huge baptistry. Pillar of Simeon Stylites remained one of the major pilgrimage sites in eastern Christianity.

Although we can hardly say that you will not see such instances, Maxime Qavtaradze is an excellent example of it in modern-day Georgia. He is a monk of the Orthodox Church and has lived on top of Katskhi Pillar for 20 years, and this monk comes down from the pillar only twice a week.

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