Biography of San Simeón Estilita (ca. 390-459)

Monk and Syrian hermit born at Sisan (near Aleppo, Syria, and Tarsus) around 390 and died in Telanisos (Syria) January 5, 459. Also called Simeón the elder, he received the nickname of stylite for having lived through much of its existence on a column (stylos, in Greek).

It was during his childhood Shepherd until he heard read in a church the "Sermon on the mount" (Beatitudes, Matthew 5). Driven by these words, which speak of human happiness, he decided to enter a monastery to put them into practice. After a period of preparation he left the world at the age of fifteen. Soon showed signs of intense dedication to prayer (learned memory the 150 psalms of the old testament, that fully read every week) and demanding asceticism (according to tradition was the inventor of the sackcloth, a rough and annoying rope tied around the waist). Their harsh practices of penance frightened his Abbot, who asked him to abandon the monastery to avoid the other monks to exagerasen their mortifications.

Thus, settled initially in an ancient cistern abandoned in Tell Neschin; a few days later he began a fast of 40 days (the duration of lent time), imitation of Jesus Christ. Although he had to be helped by an old man, completed the preset term and thereafter acquired the habit of fasting during Lent as penance for their sins and those of others. After this he moved to a cave in the desert, more remote still; It is said that, to ensure that it would not abandon the place, was chained to a rock. However, the Bishop of Antioch consider how excessive esto and Simeon took off the chain to your order. In the meantime, his reputation as a holy man stretched, and turned many people (including bishops) of near and distant places (including Gaul and Hispania) to ask for their advice and take his relics.

The large influx of people distracted to Simeon's prayer, so in 422 looked for a new place to settle. He asked that they build a column of 3 meters, which over time was rising more and more until reaching 17, always to avoid the inconvenience they caused him. In it, in the open air, he spent nearly forty years until his death; This made original gave him his later fame and also his name, stylite, 'in the column'. Very given to prolonged fasts, ate and slept very little, and he spent most of the time praying, you either stand (with frequent bows to God), like kneeling or prone with forehead touching the ground. A priest gave him daily communion. What little he needed got him through cords.

Despite their quest for solitude, sometimes he preached from the column on holidays, and even dealt with quarrels and lawsuits that were consulted him; also devoted part of his prayer to intercede by different persons. As it seems, his words and the example of his life, and his patience to the tests to which sometimes scanned it (received insults), achieved numerous conversions. Also, some monks wanted to check his obedience, ordering him to join their community. Simeon, immediately set out to get, when the monks were satisfied and shouted that remain above. On one occasion the Emperor Marcian, who was admired visited him.

Died in 459, already elderly, while praying on his knees, people tried to do with her body as a relic; the Emperor forbade it using 600 soldiers and buried in Antioch. The Emperor Leo I, at the end of the s. V moved to the capital, Constantinople. Later rose about the column, which was already a centre of pilgrimage, a huge basilica, and next to it, a monastery of monks Theban, which mimicked Simeon in their practices of penance. Then the complex would continue to grow, being known as Qalat Samaan ('Simeon Castillo'), whose ruins exist even today. Though had already during his life, after his death spread its veneration (facilitated because the column was close to the road between Ciro and Apamea), with enough churches under his invocation and prayers asking for his mediation. Even the Arab invasion and subsequent Islamization ended in a first moment with the flow of pilgrims to the basilica of Telanisos, that continued until the year 895. On this date, the emir of Aleppo soldiers stormed the basilica and killed the monks and many faithful, stopping the influx of people. His life was narrated by Teodoreto, Bishop of Ciro (Syria), which had been Stylites monk. Already in the 6th century wrote another biography of him is a lawyer named Evagrius. His feast is celebrated the day of his death, on January 5.


CHAÎNE, M. Vie et les miracles de Saint Symeon stylite l'ancien. (Cairo, Impr. de l'Institut français d'archelogie: 1948).

DORAN, R. The Lives of Simeon Sylites. (Kalamazoo, Mich., Cistercian Publications: 1992).

FARJEON, E. Ten saints. (New York: H.Z. Walck: 1958).

Les Stylites was. (Milan, Centro propaganda e stampa-Franciscan Printing Press: 1975).

Links on the Internet ; Page with a biography of San Simeon (in Spanish). ; Page with information about San Simeón Estilita (in Spanish).