St. Symeon the Stylite
According To Evagrius Scholasticus
Evagrius Scholasticus, in his Ecclesiastical History (I.13), wrote the following concerning
St. Symeon the Stylite:
In these times [about 440 A.D.] there flourished and became illustrious, Symeon, of holy and famous memory,
who originated the contrivance of stationing himself on the top of a column, thereby occupying a space of scarcely
two cubits in circumference. This man, endeavoring to realize in the flesh the existence of the heavenly hosts,
lifts himself above the concerns of earth, and overpowering the downward tendency of man's nature, is intent on
things above. He was adored by all the countryside, wrought many miracles, and the Emperor Theodosius II listened
to his advice and sought his benediction.
Symeon prolonged his endurance of this mode of life through fifty-six years; nine of which he spent in the first
monastery where he was instructed in divine knowledge, and forty-seven in the "Mandra" as it was called; namely, ten
in a certain nook; on shorter columns, seven; and thirty upon one of forty cubits. After his departure [from this life]
his holy body was conveyed to Antioch, escorted by the garrison, and a great concourse guarding the venerable body, lest
the inhabitants of the neighboring cities should gather and carry it off. In this manner it was conveyed to Antioch, and
attended, during its progress, with extraordinary prodigies.
The body has been preserved nearly entire until my time [about 580 A.D.]; and in company with many priests, I enjoyed a
sight of his sacred head, in the episcopate of the famous Gregory, when Philippicus had requested that precious relic
of the saints might be sent him for the protection of the Eastern armies. The head was well preserved save for the
teeth some of which had been violently removed by the hands of the pious [for relics].
According to another writer, Theodoret, in Symeon's lifetime, he was visited by pilgrims from near and far: Persia,
Ethiopia, Spain, and even Britain. To these at times he delivered sermons. He wore on his body a heavy iron chain.
In praying, "he bent his body so that his forehead almost touched his feet." A spectator once counted 1244 repetitions
of this movement, and then gave up reckoning. Symeon took only one scanty meal per week, and fasted through the season
of Lent. It is alleged that the devil having afflicted him with an ulcer in his thigh as reward for a little
self-righteousness, Symeon, as penance, never touched the afflicted leg upon the pillar again, and stood for the
remaining year of his life upon one leg.
Reprinted, with permission, from John Sanidopoulos's