Qala’at Sima’an, St Simeon’s Church

This church stood 60 km north-west of Aleppo in Syria. It was named after St Simeon, a shepherd from northern Syria, who became a monk after a revelation in a dream. Following St Simeon’s death in 459, the Emperor Zenon ordered that a cathedral be built in commemoration of the monk. The building was completed around 490, and it was considered to be one of the greatest of Zenon’s architectural triumphs and a masterpiece of pre-Islamic art in Syria.

Photo: F. Cobbing, 1999

The plan of the church centered on the famous column on which St Simeon spent his life as a hermit and monk. Four basilicas, arranged in the shape of a cross, opened onto an octagon covered by a dome; the column stood in the center of that space. The chapel and monastery occupy the eastern basilica.

In 526 and 528, violent earthquakes destroyed Antioch and are said to have destroyed some of the church's remains. The ruins of the church are well preserved, and the site is beautiful to visit, especially in the spring.

In 986, the son of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani captured the citadel in a conflict between the Byzantines and the Hamadani kingdom.