Church of Saint Simeon Stylites

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Church of Saint Simeon Stylites
كنيسة مار سمعان العمودي
‏قلعة سمعان
Church of Saint Simeon Stylites 17.jpg
Overview of the complex
Basic information
Location Mount Simeon, Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Geographic coordinates 36°20′03″N 36°50′38″E / 36.33417°N 36.84389°E / 36.33417; 36.84389Coordinates: 36°20′03″N 36°50′38″E / 36.33417°N 36.84389°E / 36.33417; 36.84389
Affiliation Christianity
Year consecrated 475 AD
Status in ruins
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Byzantine architecture
The remains of the pillar of Saint Simeon Stylites

The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites (Arabic: كنيسة مار سمعان العموديKanīsat 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 سمعانQalʿat Simʿān), the 'Fortress of Simeon', or Deir Semaan (Arabic: ‏دير سمعانDayr Simʿān), the 'Monastery of Simeon' .


Main article: Simeon Stylites

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.

Current status[edit]

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.[1]

The Church's location, deep within opposition controlled territory in the Syria Civil War, puts it at risk from extremist Islamist groups who are opposed to reverence for and existence of shrines and holy sites, both Muslim and Christian.


See also[edit]

Media related to Church of Saint Simeon Stylites at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ "Ancient Villages of Northern Syria". UNESCO. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Gatier, P., T. Sinclair, M. Ballance, R. Warner, R. Talbert, T. Elliott, S. Gillies. "Places: 658606 (Symeon, Mon.)". Pleiades. Retrieved March 8, 2012.