Feast Day : October 28 (in the West, celebrated with St. Jude), May 10 (among Greeks and Copts), July 1 (elsewhere in the East)
Patronage: curriers; sawyers; tanners
Also known as: Simeon, Simon the Canaanaean, Simon the Canaanite
Simon was probably born in Galilee, although nothing is known about his parentage. He was called by Jesus to be one of his 12 disciples; since St. Peter’s given name also was Simon, in order to distinguish them, Simon was surnamed Kananaios, Kananites, or Zelotes—all translations of the Hebrew qana (“the Zealous”). This referred to the zeal for Jewish law he possessed before his conversion to Christianity, not, as sometimes has been assumed, his membership in the party of Zealots, Jewish patriots opposed to the Roman occupation of Israel. Similarly, the assumption that he was a Canaanite is based on a mistranslation; had be been from Cana, his surname would have been “Kanaios.” Nevertheless, in the Greek Church he is identified with Nathanael of Cana, the bridegroom recipient of Jesus’ first public miracle, when at his mother’s request he turned water into wine, and in English he is sometimes called Simon the Canaanean or Canaanite. Simon’s later life is as confused as his name, with the various Christian churches having different traditions about his career. He certainly left Palestine when the apostles fanned out to evangelize the world, but where is uncertain. The Abyssinians hold that he preached in Samaria; the Greeks that he went to the Black Sea, Egypt, North Africa and Britain; the Georgians that he was in Colchis. According to the apocryphal Passion of Simon and Jude, he served with St. Jude in Persia. Eastern traditions hold that Simon died peacefully at Edessa (Mesopotamia), although in the West he is believed to have been martyred. This may have occurred in Jerusalem, to which Simon may have returned from the field to succeed St. James the Less as bishop. However, at least since the sixth century, there have been legends about his martyrdom with Jude in Persia, although with variations. Some hold that their bodies were cut to pieces with a saw or falchion (a short sickle-shaped sword), others that they were beaten to death with a club, then beheaded. According to The Golden Legend, Simon died when his body was sawed in half by pagan priests. Simon’s original burial place is unknown, and there are widely discrepant accounts of what became of his relics. At least some of them are believed to rest under the altar of the Crucifixion in St. Peter’s in Rome. Reims and Toulouse in France claim to have others. In art, Simon is symbolized by the saw or, more rarely, the lance, in commemoration of his death; or fish, boats or oars, in commemoration of his putative profession as a fisherman. Typically he is depicted as a middle-aged man holding one of his symbolic items. He may also be shown being sawn in two longitudinally. When he and Jude appear together, one holds a saw and the other a sword, though they are often confused.