Pillar Saints

Pillar Saints devotees who stood on the tops of lofty pillars for many years in fulfillment of religious vows. The first who originated this practice was Simeon, a native of Syria, who was born about A.D. 390. In early youth he entered a monastery near Antioch, where he devoted himself to the most rigid exercises of mortification and abstinence. Having been expelled from the monastery for his excessive austerities, he retired to the adjacent mountain, where he took up his residence first in a cave, and then in a little cell, where he immured himself for three years. Next he removed to the top of a mountain, where he chained himself to a rock for several years. His fame had now become so great that crowds of visitors thronged to see him. "Incommoded by the pressure of the crowd," we are told, "he erected a pillar on which he might stand, elevated at first six cubits, and ending with forty. The top of the pillar was three feet in diameter, and surrounded with a balustrade. Here he stood day and night in all weathers. Through the night, till 9 A.M., he was constantly in prayer, often spreading forth his hands and bowing so low that his forehead touched his toes. A bystander once attempted to count the number of these successive prostrations, and he counted till they amounted to 1244. At 9 o'clock A.M. he began to address the admiring crowd below, to hear and answer their questions, to send messages and write letters, etc., for he took concern in the welfare of the churches, and corresponded with bishops, and even emperors. Towards evening he suspended his intercourse with this world, and betook himself again to converse with God till the following day. He generally ate but once a week, never slept, wore a long sheepskin robe, and a cap of the same. His beard was very long, and his frame extremely emaciated. In this manner he is reported to have spent thirty-seven years, and at last, in his sixty-ninth year, to have expired unobserved in a praying attitude, in which no one ventured to disturb him till after three days, when Anthony, his disciple and biographer, mounting the pillar, found that his spirit had departed, and his holy body was emitting a delightful odor. His remains were borne in pomp to Antioch, in order to be the-safeguard of that unwalled town, and innumerable miracles were performed at his shrine. His pillar also was so venerated that it was literally enclosed with chapels and monasteries for some ages. Simeon was so averse to women that he never allowed one to come within the sacred precincts of his pillar. Even his own mother wag debarred this privilege till after her death, when her corpse was brought to him, and he now restored her to life for a short time that she might see him, and converse with him a little before she ascended to heaven." Another Simeon Stylites is mentioned by Evagrius as having lived in the 6th century. In his childhood he mounted his pillar near Antioch, and is said to have occupied it sixty-eight years. The example of Simeon was afterwards followed, to a certain extent at least, by many persons in Syria and Palestine, and pillar saints were found in tie East even in the 12th century: when the Stylites, as they were termed by the Greeks, were abolished. This order of saints never found a footing the West, and when one Wulfilaieus attempted to commence the practice in the German territory of Treves, the neighboring bishops destroyed his pillar, and prevented him from carrying his purpose into effect.

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