St Simeon Stylites

Simeon the Elder was born about 388 in northern border Syria. He was a shepherd boy and he entered a monastery before the age of sixteen. He began a regular practice of not eating or drinking for all of Lent, and he combined the sacrifice with standing up as long as he could. Later, Simeon found a rocky outcrop in the desert and committed to remain standing upright on a narrow space, and to devoting himself to prayer.

Soon crowds would sought him out and ask him for prayers or wisdom, and he was left with little time for his own meditations. Finally he decided to have a pillar erected at the top, where he lived the rest of his years.

The first pillar was a few meters high, but this was replaced several times till finally St Simeon’s pillar was over 15 meter above the ground. His way of life made a great impression on his contemporaries, and often they would bring a ladder and climb up to his platform to talk to him. St Simeon refused to have any kind of shelter built on the small platform, and he lived exposed to the elements until his death. He died on Friday, 2 Sept., 459, after 36 years on his pillar.

The Churches at Antioch and at Constantinople sought for possession of his remains, and the greater part of his relics were left at Antioch as a protection to the city. Qala’at Sima’an was built in his honor; the ruins of the church are still there in Syria today. It consists of four basilicas built out from an octagonal court in the four compass directions. In the center of the court is the base of St. Simeon's column. The plan of this structure is thought to have influenced contemporary and later church building.