22 August 2010

The Stylites

Stylites (from Greek stylos, "pillar") or Pillar-Saints are a type of Christian ascetic who in the early days of the Byzantine Empire stood on pillars preaching, fasting and praying. They believed that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. The first stylite was probably Simeon Stylites the Elder who climbed on a pillar in Syria in 423 and remained there until his death 37 years later.

Palladius of Galatia tells us of a hermit in Palestine who dwelt in a cave on the top of a mountain and who for the space of twenty-five years never turned his face to the west so that the sun never set on his face. St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Patrologia Graeca 37, 1456) speaks of a solitary who stood upright for many years together, absorbed in contemplation, without ever lying down. Theodoret assures us that he had seen a hermit who had passed ten years in a tub suspended in midair from poles (Philotheus, chapter 28).

Palladius of Galatia was bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, and a devoted disciple of Saint John Chrysostom. He is best remembered for his work, the Lausiac History; he was also, in all probability, the author of the Dialogue on the Life of Chrysostom.

Palladius was born in Galatia in 363 or 364, and dedicated himself to the monastic life in 386 or a little later. He travelled to Egypt to meet the prototypical Christian monks, the Desert Fathers, for himself. In 388 he arrived in Alexandria and about 390 he passed on to Nitria, and a year later to a district in the desert known as Cellia, from the multitude of its cells, where he spent nine years, first with Macarius of Alexandria and then with Evagrius Ponticus. At the end of the time, his health having broken down, he went to Palestine in search of a cooler climate. In 400 he was ordained bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, and soon became involved in the controversies which centred round St. John Chrysostom. The year 405 found him in Rome, whither he had gone to plead the cause of Chrysostom, his fidelity to whom resulted in his exile in the following year to Syene and the Thebaid, where he gained first-hand knowledge of another part of Egypt. In 412–413 he was restored, after a sojourn among the monks of the Mount of Olives. His great work was written in 419–420 and was called the Lausiac History, being composed for Lausus, chamberlain at the court of Theodosius II. He died some time in the decade 420–430.

There seems no reason to doubt that it was the ascetic spirit manifested in such examples as these which spurred men on to devise new and more ingenious forms of self-crucifixion and which in 423 led Simeon Stylites the Elder first of all to take up his abode on the top of a pillar. Critics have recalled a passage in Lucian (De Syria Dea, chapters 28 and 29) which speaks of a high column at Hierapolis Bambyce to the top of which a man ascended twice a year and spent a week in converse with the gods, but the Catholic Encyclopedia argues that it is unlikely that Simeon had derived any suggestion from this pagan custom. In any case Simeon had a continuous series of imitators, particularly in Syria and Palestine. Daniel the Stylite may have been the first of these, for he had been a disciple of Simeon and began his rigorous way of life shortly after his master died.

Saint Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite (Arabic: مار سمعان العمودي‎ mār semʕān l-ʕamūdī; Greek: Ἅγιος Συμεὼν Στυλίτης Hagios Symeon Stylites) (c. 390 – 2 September 459) was a Christian ascetic saint who achieved fame because he lived for 37 years on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria. Several other stylites later followed his model (the Greek word style means pillar). He is known formally as Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder to distinguish him from Simeon Stylites the Younger and Simeon Stylites III.

Simeon, who was born at Sisan (probably the current Turkish town of Samandağ) in northern Syria, was the son of a shepherd. With the partition of the Roman Empire in 395, Syria was incorporated in what would become the Byzantine Empire and Christianity grew quickly.

Reportedly under the influence of his mother Martha (who is also a saint), he developed a zeal for Christianity at the age of 13, following a lecture of the Beatitudes. He subjected himself to ever-increasing bodily austerities from an early age, especially fasting, and entered a monastery before the age of 16.

On one occasion, moving nearby, he commenced a severe regimen of fasting for Great Lent and was visited by the head of the monastery, who left him some water and loaves. A number of days later, Simeon was discovered unconscious, with the water and loaves untouched. When he was brought back to the monastery, it was discovered that he had bound his waist with a girdle made of palm fronds so tightly that days of soaking were required to remove the fibres from the wound formed. At this, Simeon was requested to leave the monastery.

He then shut himself up for one and a half years in a hut, where he passed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking. When he emerged from the hut, his achievement was hailed as a miracle. He later took to standing continually upright so long as his limbs would sustain him.

After one and a half years in his hut, Simeon sought a rocky eminence on the slopes of what is now the Sheik Barakat Mountain and compelled himself to remain a prisoner within a narrow space, less than 20 meters in diameter. But crowds of pilgrims invaded the area to seek him out, asking his counsel or his prayers, and leaving him insufficient time for his own devotions. This at last led him to adopt a new way of life.

In order to get away from the ever increasing number of people who frequently came to him for prayers and advice, leaving him little if any time for his private austerities, Simeon discovered a pillar which had survived amongst ruins, formed a small platform at the top, and upon this determined to live out his life. It has been stated that, as he seemed to be unable to avoid escaping the world horizontally, he may have thought it an attempt to try to escape it vertically. For sustenance small boys from the village would climb up the pillar and pass him small parcels of flat bread and goats milk.
When the monastic Elders living in the desert heard about Simeon, who had chosen a new and strange form of asceticism, they wanted to test him to determine whether his extreme feats were founded in humility or pride. They decided to tell Simeon under obedience to come down from the pillar. If he disobeyed they would forcibly drag him to the ground, but if he was willing to submit, they were to leave him on his pillar. St Simeon displayed complete obedience and humility, and the monks told him to stay where he was.

This first pillar was little more than four meters high, but his well-wishers subsequently replaced it with others, the last in the series being apparently over 15 meters from the ground. At the top of the pillar was a platform, with a baluster, which is believed to have been about one square metre.
According to his hagiography, Simeon would not allow any woman to come near his pillar, not even his own mother, reportedly telling her, "If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to come." Martha submitted to this. Remaining in the area, she also embraced the monastic life of silence and prayer. When she died, Simeon asked that her remains be brought to him. He reverently bade farewell to his dead mother, and, according to the account, a smile appeared on her face.

Edward Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describes Simeon's existence as follows:
In this last and lofty station, the Syrian Anachoret resisted the heat of thirty summers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exercise instructed him to maintain his dangerous situation without fear or giddiness, and successively to assume the different postures of devotion. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his outstretched arms in the figure of a cross, but his most familiar practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet; and a curious spectator, after numbering twelve hundred and forty- four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account. The progress of an ulcer in his thigh might shorten, but it could not disturb, this celestial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without descending from his column.
Even on the highest of his columns, Simeon was not withdrawn from the world. If anything, the new pillar drew even more people, not only the pilgrims who had come earlier but now sightseers as well. Simeon made himself available to these visitors every afternoon. By means of a ladder, visitors were able to ascend, and it is known that he wrote letters, the text of some of which survived to this day, that he instructed disciples, and that he also delivered addresses to those assembled beneath, preaching especially against profanity and usury. In contrast to the extreme austerity that he demanded of himself, his preaching conveyed temperance and compassion, and was marked with common sense and freedom from fanaticism.

Much of Simeon’s public ministry, like that of other Syrian ascetics, can be seen as socially cohensive in the context of the Late Roman East. In the face of the withdrawal of wealthy landowners to the large cities, holy men such as Simeon acted as impartial and necessary patrons and arbiters in disputes between peasant farmers and within the smaller towns.

Simeon's fame spread throughout the Empire. The Emperor Theodosius and his wife Eudocia greatly respected the saint and listened to his counsels, while the Emperor Leo paid respectful attention to a letter he sent in favour of the Council of Chalcedon. Simeon is also said to have corresponded with St Genevieve of Paris.

Simeon became so influential that a church delegation was sent to him to demand that he descend from his pillar as a sign of submission. When, however, he showed himself willing to comply, the request was withdrawn. Once when he was ill, Theodosius sent three bishops to beg him to come down and allow himself to be attended by physicians, but Simeon preferred to leave his cure in the hands of God, and before long he recovered.

After spending 39 years on his pillar, Simeon died on 2 September 459. He inspired many imitators, and, for the next century, ascetics living on pillars, stylites, were a common sight throughout the Byzantine Levant.

He is commemorated as a saint in the Coptic Orthodox Church, where his feast is on 29 Pashons. He is commemorated 1 September by the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches, and 5 January in the Roman Catholic Church.

A contest arose between Antioch and Constantinople for the possession of Simeon's remains. The preference was given to Antioch, and the greater part of his relics were left there as a protection to the unwalled city.

The ruins of the vast edifice erected in his honour and known in Arabic as the Qalaat Semaan ("the Fortress of Simeon") can still be seen. They are located about 30 km northwest of Aleppo (36°20′03″N 36°50′38″ECoordinates: 36°20′03″N 36°50′38″E) and consist of four basilicas built out from an octagonal court towards the four points of the compass to form a large cross. In the centre of the court stands the base of the style or column on which St. Simeon stood.

A statue commemorating St. Simeon's asceticism can be found in Grimsby town centre, UK. The town's thriving Orthodox Syrian Christian community commissioned the statue, which has a jade motif of 39 concentric circles representing each of St. Simeon's years atop the pillar, to be built in 1971.
In The Guinness World Book Of Records 2010 his record for the longest pole sit is also the longest record ever held by anybody.

Saint Daniel the Stylite (c. 409 - 493) is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic Churches. He was born in a village by the name of Maratha in upper Mesopotamia near Samosata, in today what is now a region of Turkey. He entered a monastery at the age of twelve and lived there until he was thirty-eight. During a voyage he made with his abbot to Antioch, he passed by Tellnesin and received the benediction and encouragement of St. Simeon Stylites. Then he visited the holy places, stayed in various convents, and retired in 451 into the ruins of a pagan temple.
He established his pillar four miles north of Constantinople. The owner of the soil where he placed his pillar, who had not been consulted, appealed to the emperor and the patriarch Gennadius of Constantinople. Gennadius proposed to dislodge him, but in some way was deterred. Gennadius ordained him a priest against his will, standing at the foot of his pillar. When the ceremony was over the patriarch administered the Eucharist by means of a ladder, which Daniel had ordered to be brought. Gennadius then received the Eucharist from Daniel. Daniel lived on the pillar for 33 years. By continually standing, his feet were covered with sores and ulcers: the winds of Thrace sometimes stripped him of his scanty clothing.

He was visited by both the Emperor Leo I the Thracian and the Emperor Zeno. As a theologian, he came out against monophysitism.

The following is his prayer before he began his life on the pillar:
"I yield Thee glory, Jesus Christ my God, for all the blessings which Thou hast heaped upon me, and for the grace which Thou hast given me that I should embrace this manner of life. But Thou knowest that in ascending this pillar, I lean on Thee alone, and that to Thee alone I look for the happy issue of mine undertaking. Accept, then, my object: strengthen me that I finish this painful course: give me grace to end it in holiness."
The following is the advice he gave to his disciples just before his death:
"Hold fast humility, practice obedience, exercise hospitality, keep the fasts, observe the vigils, love poverty, and above all maintain charity, which is the first and great commandment; keep closely bound to all that regards piety, avoid the tares of the heretics. Separate never from the Church your Mother; if you do these things your righteousness shall be perfect."
Saint Daniel is commemorated 11 December on the liturgical calendars of the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches.

Saint Simeon Stylites the Younger [also known as 'St. Simeon of the Admirable Mountain'] (Arabic: ‎مار سمعان العمودي الأصغر mār semʕān l-ʕamūdī l-asghar) (521 - May 24, 597) is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Churches of Eastern and Latin Rites. Born at Antioch, his father was a native of Edessa, his mother, named Martha was afterwards revered as a saint and a life of her, which incorporates a letter to her son written from his pillar to Thomas, the guardian of the true cross at Jerusalem, has been printed.

Like his namesake, the first Stylites, Simeon seems to have been drawn very young to a life of austerity. He attached himself to a community of ascetics living within the mandra or enclosure of another pillar-hermit, named John, who acted as their spiritual director. Simeon while still only a boy had a pillar erected for himself close to that of John. It is Simeon himself who in the above-mentioned letter to Thomas states that he was living upon a pillar when he lost his first teeth. He maintained this kind of life for 68 years. In the course of this period, however, he several times moved to a new pillar, and on the occasion of the first of these exchanges the Patriarch of Antioch and the Bishop of Seleucia ordained him deacon during the short space of time he spent upon the ground. For eight years until John died, Simeon remained near his master's column, so near that they could easily converse. During this period his austerities were kept in some sort of check by the older hermit.

After John's death Simeon gave full rein to his ascetical practices and Evagrius declares that he lived only upon the branches of a shrub that grew near Theopolis. Simeon the younger was ordained priest and was thus able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in memory of his mother. On such occasions his disciples one after another climbed up the ladder to receive Communion at his hands. As in the case of most of the other pillar saints a large number of miracles were believed to have been worked by Simeon the Younger. In several instances the cure was effected by pictures representing him (Holl in "Philotesia", 56). Towards the close of his life the saint occupied a column upon a mountain-side near Antioch called from his miracles the "Hill of Wonders", and it was here that he died. Besides the letter mentioned, several writings are attributed to the younger Simeon. A number of these small spiritual tractates were printed by Cozza-Luzi ("Nova PP. Bib.", VIII, iii, Rome, 1871, pp. 4–156). There is also an "Apocalypse" and letters to the Emperors Justinian and Justin II (see fragments in P.G., LXXXVI, pt. II, 3216-20). More especially Simeon was the reputed author of a certain number of liturgical hymns, "Troparis", etc. (see Pétridès in "Echos d'Orient", 1901 and 1902).

Saint Alypius the Stylite was a seventh century ascetic saint. He is revered as a monastic founder, an intercessor for the infertile, and a protector of children. During his lifetime he was a much sought after starets (guide in the Christian spiritual life).

Alypius was born in the city of Hadrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, who had been widowed early, was very pious. She sent her son to be educated by the bishop Theodore, gave all of her livelihood to the poor, and herself became a deaconess and lived an ascetic life. Alypius built a church in honour of the Great Martyr Saint Euphemia the All-Praised on the site of a dilapidated pagan temple. He erected a pillar beside the church and lived atop it for the majority of his adult life. Two monasteries were built beside his pillar, one for monks and one for nuns, and Saint Alypius served as spiritual director of both. According to his hagiography for the last fourteen years of his life he was unable to stand, and had to lie on his side. He died in 640, at the age of 118. He is recognised as one of the three great stylite ascetics along with Simeon Stylites the Elder and Daniel the Stylite.

Alypius is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, as well as the Roman Catholic Church on November 26. For those churches which follow the Julian Calendar November 26 currently falls on December 9 of the modern Gregorian Calendar. After his death his relics were interred in the Church of St. Euphemia which he had built. His head is preserved in the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Mount Athos.

Luke Thaumaturgus (Luke the Younger, Luke of Hellas, Luke the Wonder-worker) (d. 946 AD) is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox, Byzantine Catholic, and Roman Catholic Churches. He lived as a hermit and stylite from the age of 18 until his death on Mount Joannitsa near Corinth. One of the earliest saints to be seen levitating in prayer[1], Luke was the third of the seven children of Stephen and Euphrosyne. His family lived in Aegina and then Thessaly.

St. Luke Thaumaturgus' feast day is celebrated February 7 on Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic liturgical calendars.

Alipy of the Caves (? - 1114) - (also known as 'Venerable Alypius') Eastern Orthodox saint, monk and famous painter of icons from the cave monastery of Kiev Pechersk Lavra. Saint Alipy was a disciple of Greek icon painters from Constantinople and considered to be the first iconographer of the Kievan Rus.

According to medieval sources, Alipy created his icons with the help of God and angels. The saint took part in creation of mosaic painting in Dormition Cathedral of the Lavra. Presumably, the artist also participated in the painting of murals in St. Michael's Cathedral in Kiev. One of the icons painted by St Alypius survived and is now preserved in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. This is the Sven Icon of the Theotokos (feast days: May 3 and August 17).

The saint died on August 17 around the year 1114. When his body was discovered, it was found that the fingers of his right hand were still formed in the Orthodox manner of making the Sign of the Cross.
The feast day of Saint Alipy is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on August 17 (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, August 17 currently falls on August 30 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also celebrated, in common with other saints of his monastery on September 28 (October 11), the "Synaxis of the Holy Fathers of Kiev whose relics lie in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony".

His relics are preserved in Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

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