Feast Day : January 5
Simeon Stylites is worthy of note for the extremes of his asceticism and mortification, and for establishing the practice of pillar-living for those who found ordinary asceticism insufficient. Simeon was born in northern Syria and entered a monastery at Eusebona near Antioch. His practices were too extreme for the monks, so they persuaded him to leave. He spent three years living in a hut. He became renowned for fasting during Lent and his feat of standing for as long as his body could endure. Simeon seemed always to look for even more extreme ways to practice asceticism, and struck upon the idea of confining himself to a platform atop a nine-foot pillar. Understandably, this attracted crowds, who came not only to see the human oddity but to ask his advice as well. Simeon remedied this by increasing the height of the pillar to 50 (some accounts say 60) feet. On these pillars he spent the last 37 years of his life. Simeon ate one small meal per week and fasted throughout the entire season of Lent. His disciples gave him food and removed his waste with buckets and ropes. Even this deprivation was not enough for him, so he had himself bound to the platform so tightly that the ropes cut into his flesh. He had maggots brought to the platform and set upon the wounds, so that they began eating his flesh. He wore a heavy iron chain. People came from Persia, Ethiopia, Spain and even Britain to see him and hear him preach. He inspired other ascetics to live atop pillars. According to lore, Simeon was often and visibly visited by his guardian angel, who devoted many hours to teaching him the mysteries of God. The angel also foretold his death. When he developed an ulcer on his right leg, he stood for the remaining year of his life upon his good leg. In 459, his disciple Anthony was unable to get a response from him and so climbed up to the platform. There he found the saint dead, his body exuding a perfume that seemed made from many spices. His remains were taken to Antioch and his body remained well preserved until nearly the seventh century. Some teeth were removed for relics. The head was considered to have protective powers against invasion from Eastern armies.