Stylites (στυλῖται, κιονῖται) orapillar saints, a class of anchorets who took up their abode on lofty pillars, where the limited space forbade their sitting or lying down, and obliged them to stand continually (hence stationarii), protected only by a lattice work or board railing, or by a wall, from falling, and exposed to the open sky by day and night, in both summer and winter. SEE PILLAR SAINTS.
The founder of this class of Christian fakirs was Simeon, called the Syrian, or the older, who lived in the 5th century, under the reigns of Theodosius II (408-450) and his successors. He was a native of Sisan, or Sesan, in Northern Syria, on Mount Amanus, and was of Christian parentage. he was born in 390 or 391, and in childhood watched his father's flocks in the solitude of his native mountain region. At the age of thirteen he entered a Christian church for the first time, and received impressions which led to his adoption of a monastic life. He spent two years in a convent near his home, and ten more in St. Eusebonas's convent, near eleda, and in the latter place especially excelled all his associates in the rigorous harshness of his ascetical practices. After a time he removed to Tel-Nescin, or Telanessa (Τελάνισος, Theod.), near Antioch, and took up his abode in a hut on the side of a mountain. While there he fasted forty days, absolutely without partaking of food, in imitation of Moses and Elijah; and not only did this practice become his regular custom during the fasts of Lent, but he added to it the notion of spending the entire period standing on his feet, for which purpose he caused himself to be bound to an upright stake. After spending three years in this hut, he caused himself to be surrounded with a wall (μάνδρα, claustrum) and had himself fastened to a rock by a chain twenty cubits long. By this time the fame of his extraordinary piety had spread abroad, and multitudes came to look upon him, and quarrelled to touch his clothing, which induced him to erect a pillar within his mandra, which he mounted, and upon which he supported himself by being bound to an upright post (about 420). Soon that support became unnecessary, and he was able to obtain what rest he required by holding fast to the lattice with which he was surrounded. The first pillar was only six or seven cubits high; but he caused its height to be repeatedly increased, so that it was at last thirty-six cubits high; and at this altitude he spent the last thirty years of his life, from 429. The monks of the adjoining desert sought to test him by ordering him to descend from his pillar; but as he declared his immediate readiness to obey, they desisted, and acknowledged a divine call to the course of life he had adopted in his case. From sunset until the ninth hour of the next day he was engaged in devotional exercises; after that time he was accessible to all except women. Not even his own mother was permitted to enter his mandra. He dispensed counsel, preached, prophesied, wrought miracles by the power of his prayers, and interfered in the affairs of the Church generally e.g. when Theodosius II decreed the restoration of synagogues which the Christians had taken from the Jews of Antioch, Simeon wrote a threatening letter, which induced the recall of the edict already issued. In 457 Leo I sought the advice of Simeon with respect to the Monophysite troubles which had broken out in Alexandria, and elicited two letters from the anchoret. Eventually a running sore broke out in his left foot, which obliged him to stand on the right foot only, and in this position he died in 459. His remains were removed with religious and military pomp to Antioch, and a magnificent church was erected in his honor on the spot where his mandra and pillar stood, three hundred stadia from Antioch. The day of his commemoration is Jan. 5. SEE SIMEON, ST.
After Simeon's decease the number of Stylites increased, until they became a distinct order. It became customary for wealthy people to build splendid pillars for venerated men, and to attach stairways to them by which they could be mounted. The pillar of the Stylite Daniel bore an inscription in his honor, and peculiar privileges were accorded to his class by law. On the other hand, the teachers of the Church sometimes addressed admonitions and censures to particular Stylites. Numerous Stylites are mentioned, some as late as the 12th century. The immediate successor of Simeon appears to have been the Daniel already mentioned, of whom it is recorded that he temporarily abandoned his pillar in order to defend Chalcedonian orthodoxy against the emperor Basiliscus in 476. His day is Dec. 11. A Stylite named Alypius spent seventy years on a pillar near Adrianople commemorated Nov. 26. Two additional Simeons occur among the Stylites one of whom died in 595, after having been standing on a pillar as early as 527, and left a letter addressed to the second Council of Nice and MSS. preserved in the Vatican Library; the other lived under Michael Comnenus (114380), surnamed the Presbyter or Archimandrite; also Fulminatus, because he was killed by lightning also left some MSS. He was probably one of the last of Stylites. They found no acceptance in the West. Gregory of Tours mentions one, indeed, in the district of Treves; but records, at the same time, that the Gallic bishops caused his pillar to be destroyed.
See Theodoret, Hist. Relig. c. 26; Antonius, in Act. SS. Jan. 1, 261 sq.; Cosmas, in Assemanni Act. Mart. 1, 268 sq.; Maselli, ibid. 3, 246 sq.; Evagrius, Hist. Eccles. 1, 13; Simeon Metaphrastes; Niceph. Call Hist. Eccl. 14, 51; 15, 18 sq.; Hospinian, De Orig. et Progr. Monachatus, etc., lib. 2, c. 5, fig. 1588, fol. 22 sq.; Allatius, De Simeonum Scriptis (Paris, 1664); Lautensack, De Simeone Stylita (Viteb. 1700); Sieber, De Sanctis Columnar. (Lips. 1714); Zedler, Universal-Lexikon; Neander, Kirchengesch. 2; Uhlemann, Symeon, etc., in Illgen's Zeitschr. fur hist. Theologie, 1845, Nos. 3 and 4. Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.