Church of Saint Simeon Stylites
|Church of Saint Simeon Stylites
كنيسة مار سمعان العمودي
Overview of the complex
|Location||Mount Simeon, Aleppo Governorate, Syria|
|Year consecrated||475 AD|
|Architectural style||Byzantine architecture|
The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites (Arabic: كنيسة مار سمعان العمودي Kanīsat Mār Simʿān al-ʿAmūdī) is a historical building located about 30 km (19 mi) northwest of Aleppo, Syria. It is the oldest surviving Byzantine church, dating back to the 5th century. Built on the site of the pillar of St. Simeon Stylites, a famed hermit monk, the church is popularly known as either Qalaat Semaan (Arabic: قلعة سمعان Qalʿat Simʿān), the 'Fortress of Simeon', or Deir Semaan (Arabic: دير سمعان Dayr Simʿān), the 'Monastery of Simeon' .
St. Simeon was born in 386 AD in a village in the Amanus Mountains. He joined a monastery in this area, but soon decided to seek the religious life alone as a hermit monk. After living in a cave for a little while, he relocated to the top of a pillar eventually reaching 15 meters (49 ft) high to achieve greater seclusion. He soon attracted even greater crowds who came from far and near to hear him preach twice a day.
After 37 years atop his pillar, St. Simeon died in 459. His body was ceremoniously escorted to Antioch by seven bishops and several hundred soldiers, followed by a throng of devoted followers. Simeon's grave in Antioch became a major site of pilgrimage, and so did his pillar on the rocky bluff where he had spent the last four decades of his life.
Within just a few decades (c.475), a vast martyrium was built in Simeon's honor on this site. It consisted of four basilicas radiating from the sides of a central octagon, within which was enshrined the famous column.
The 5,000 square meters (53,820 sq; ft) of floor space was nearly equal to that of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Yet, quite unlike Hagia Sophia, the Church of St. Simeon was (and is) perched atop a barren hill 60 km (37 mi) from the nearest city. But it was not isolated: the church was only one part of a huge, walled complex that included a monastery, two lesser churches, and several large hostels. The Muslim conquest of Syria forced the abandonment of the church and complex.
The Church's location, deep behind the lines of control of opposition in the ongoing crisis in Syria, puts it at risk from certain extremist Islamist militants (most of whom are foreigners that were pushed into the conflict by various intelligence agencies that expressly and covertly oppose the Arab Spring), who are opposed to reverence for shrines and holy sites, both Muslim and Christian.
St. Simeon's pillar can still be seen in the center of the courtyard, although it is now only a 2 meter (6 ft 7 in) high boulder due to centuries of relic-gathering by pilgrims. The courtyard is surrounded by four basilicas on a cruciform plan.
The east basilica is slightly larger than the others; it was the most important and held all the major ceremonies. Adjacent to the south wall of the eastern basilica is the chapel and the monastery.
Opposite the southern basilica is the baptistery, which was built a little after the main church but is an important part of the pilgrimage complex. To the west of the baptistery is the processional route that leads towards Deir Semaan.
As of June 2011, the Church and surrounding village was designated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of the "Ancient Villages of Northern Syria", a World Heritage Site.
Media related to Church of Saint Simeon Stylites at Wikimedia Commons
- "Ancient Villages of Northern Syria". UNESCO. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
- Gary Vikan, Byzantine Pilgrimage Art (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 1982), 8–9.
- Simeon Citadel and Dead Cities, Suggestion to have Saint Simeon Stylites recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, in 2006, as part of "Simeon Citadel and Dead Cities"-project.
- "St. Simeon Church." Syria Gate (accessed 2008).
- Sacred Destinations
- Weitzmann, Kurt, ed., Age of spirituality: late antique and early Christian art, third to seventh century, no. 590, 1979, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ISBN 9780870991790
- Gatier, P., T. Sinclair, M. Ballance, R. Warner, R. Talbert, T. Elliott, S. Gillies. "Places: 658606 (Symeon, Mon.)". Pleiades. Retrieved March 8, 2012.