Simeon Stylites

Posted on 21st July 2020 under The Rectory Bulletin | Church History


We are fools for Christ's sake (1 Corinthians 4:10)

From time to time the history of the Church throws up delightfully unusual people who, in their very oddness, become important leaders of the faith. One such is Simeon Stylites (c. 390–459).

Simeon was a man who sought the presence of God in solitude, and as a teenager entered a monastery with his brother. There he began seeking ever more complete isolation, and after a few years he had annoyed the rest of the community to such an extent that they asked him to leave. Which he did. After a spell in another monastery he ended up as an ‘anchorite’ (one who lives strictly alone), and that’s when the problems really began.

Simeon’s activities soon gained him a reputation to holiness, and people began to visit. A small community of followers formed around him, and soon Simeon’s reputation for being alone meant he was never alone! So he came up with a solution: build a short pillar and live on top. Which he did, making the pillar a higher bit by bit over the years until it was around 20 metres high. He was still visited, though, and gained a reputation for holiness. In fact he exercised such a great influence that even the Emperor wrote to him.

He died on 2nd September 459 and his body was taken to be buried in Antioch. The Emperor demanded that the body be taken to Constantinope, but in Antioch it stayed.

If you visit the site of his pillar today you will see the remains of the church and monastery which surrounded his pillar, and even the stump the pillar today. So much for a man who desired anonymous solitude.

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