THE SAINT WHO STOOD ON A PILLAR
SIMEON was the son of poor parents, who in early times had learned to forsake their heathen gods and had
become pious followers of the new religion of Christ. The little boy was engaged as a shepherd to
tend the sheep of a farmer, who lived near his home. He was very careful of his sheep, keeping them
from wild beasts by day and driving them safely home at night. When the winter came he herded his
sheep carefully into their fold, and then he had much time to do as he liked.
One day Simeon entered a church, and after listening to the words of the good priest, he knelt down
to pray. As he prayed, a vision came to him of the life of a saint. He arose, determined to devote
himself entirely to good deeds. He spoke to the priest about it. The good father counseled him,
"Enter a monastery, my son, where you will forget the world, and spend your life in peace and
 Simeon bowed his head and went home very thoughtfully and quietly, but said nothing to his mother
about what had happened. That night in his sleep, he had a dream in which he thought he was digging
the foundation of a great building. A voice said to him, "Dig deep, dig wide, so that the building
may be large and strong."
All night long the boy thought he was digging and digging till at last the voice cried, "Stop, you
have dug enough; now build your house."
When he awoke he arose and put on his clothes and stole out of the cottage and ran off to the
monastery, where he told the priest he had come to stay, though he was only a boy. The priest, after
hearing his story, told him he might remain in the monastery on trial. Simeon moved to the monastery
and became very devout. He soon trained himself to do without food and remain upon his knees for two
or three days at a time. This astonished the good father so much that he thought the boy must be
inspired by God, for none of the priests could fast so long or pray so long as the boy Simeon.
After staying two years in the monastery he said to the good priest, "I am going to leave the
monastery and go into the desert and live there by myself. I do not need much food and as for
clothes, I have enough to last me for a long time." Accordingly
 he went into the mountains near by and built a small stone house for himself and began the life of a
At the end of three years Simeon had trained himself to stand all day in one spot and to keep awake
all night with his mind intent upon one thing, and to do without food for days at a time.
Then he decided to leave his hut and go farther into the mountains, so he took with him a chain
thirty feet long. Two men met him on the way and asked, "Brother Simeon, what will you do with that
Simeon replied, "I intend to tie myself to the mountains, so that I cannot get away, even if I
should so desire."
After he reached the spot that he had selected, he built another hut of stone and fastened his chain
to a big boulder. He was still a young man, but he looked very strange to the people who passed that
way, chained to a stone and preaching all the time. Some one brought him a little goat's milk every
day, and in the winter time others brought a few fagots to make a fire. His hair grew long and his
clothes grew ragged and he became dirty, but he did not care. All this was to him the sign of a very
At last a bishop came by and saw the crowd standing around to hear the wild-eyed young man
 preach. The bishop asked him, "Brother Simeon, why are you chained to a rock?"
Simeon answered, "So that I cannot move from this place."
The bishop replied, "If you need a chain to keep you from going astray, you are not a real
Christian, for real Christians need no chains to bind them."
Simeon thought a moment and said, "Bishop, you are right, I have not thought of it in that way; my
own will should be stronger than any earthly chains. I pray you to send a man to remove these
Therefore, the bishop sent a man from the village to strike off the chains so that Simeon could
depend upon his own will thereafter to keep him from going astray.
The crowds kept coming to see the strange young man and to hear him preach. At last they became so
large that Simeon decided to build a pillar upon which he could stand. At first the pillar was only
nine feet high and on top was a platform three feet square, just big enough to stand on but not big
enough to lie down on.
Simeon climbed upon this platform and stood there day and night, never sitting down. What little
sleep he had he took standing.
After a while, he decided to build his pillar higher
 than nine feet, and so he built it up, stone by stone, until at last it reached thirty feet, and
some even say it went as high as sixty feet. Probably it did not reach as high as that, but we know
that it was a high pillar upon which Brother Simeon stood. People gave him the name of Simeon
Stylites, which means Simeon of the Pillar.
"Now," said Simeon to himself, "I shall stand here till I die. I am above the earth and no one can
reach me, but everybody can hear me."
How he managed to live upon the top of this platform and to sleep standing up, and how much agony of
body he suffered, nobody ever knew, but there he stood, month after month and year after year,
getting older, wilder and more and more ragged. The hot sun by day, the cold winds by night, even
the rain did not disturb him nor alter his purpose.
"I am here to preach the word to all who come," said he; "I am sustained by the Lord and upon this
spot I all stand until the end."
On one occasion a man who came to hear him pray sat and listened at the foot of the pillar all day
until he grew tired and slept. In the morning when the man awoke the saint was still praying. The
man said he counted twelve hundred vows made by the saint before he himself fell asleep.
One day the saint on the pillar thought he saw a
 Chariot come down from heaven as if to take him away. The chariot was borne upon a cloud of fire and
in it were angels. The saint exclaimed, "At last the angels have come to take me away." So as the
chariot came near the pillar, he lifted his foot to step in. But the chariot vanished, leaving the
saint with his foot uplifted.
"Ah! the heavenly vision has gone," Simeon exclaimed, "but I will live here on this pillar and stand
upon one foot till the vision comes again." And so he stood with one foot uplifted, balancing
himself as best he could upon the pillar.
The sun and the rain did not make him alter his position. Thus he stood for a whole year with one
foot uplifted waiting for a chariot, but the chariot did not come. What torture he endured no one
will ever know, for his mouth uttered no word of complaint.
The story of the saint spread far and wide. Crowds came to the pillar to hear him preach and
prophesy. His brother hermits became jealous of his fame. A body of them came out of the desert,
ragged and foot-sore, to see him and to hear what he had to say. They decided to trap him if they
could and see if he were an impostor. After listening to him prophesy, the leader said, "Brother
Simeon, the Lord has sent us here to tell thee to come down from thy pillar and dwell on the
 The saint, standing with uplifted foot and face turned to heaven, thought a while and replied, "If
it is the Lord's will that I come down from this pillar I will do so."
But as he put his foot to the platform as if he would descend, the hermits exclaimed, "No, Brother
Simeon, we but jest with thee. The Lord sends thee no such message through us. Stay where thou art
and preach thy word."
Simeon stayed on. He was now an old man, for he had been upon the pillar for thirty years. His hair
was long and matted, his clothes were in rags. His body was brown with exposure and dirt; still he
did not complain or show any intention of coming down. Every morning he lifted up a little basket of
food and a bottle of milk for his daily sustenance. At last he grew so weak that he could not raise
the basket to his pillar and those who came to hear him preach could not hear his voice.
One day the watchers at the foot of the pillar saw the feeble fo totter and the eyes close. The legs
that had be me stiff from standing now began to tremble and the old saint swayed upon his pillar.
While those who were watching held their breath in awe, the venerable old saint tottered upon his
platform, his form crumpled, and he fell to the ground dead.