Icon: St Simeon Stylites | R-12


Origin Central Russia
Period : 17th century
Size : 67 x 51 cm
Private Collection, Belgium
S. Morsink ed., The Power of Icons, Russian and Greek Icons 15th - 19th Century, Ghent 2006, pp. 144, 145, Cat. No. 38.

St Simeon Stylites is depicted frontally and half-length,. The pillar is hexagonal in shape and has a few openings, which suggests small windows. The saint is dressed as a monk. He makes  a blessing gesture with one hand and holds a closed scroll in his other hand.

Pillar-saints were specially revered in Russia. They were considered the foundation of Christian belief and in the churches they were often seen on frescoes on columns and pillars and under the galleries. The most popular were the two stylites named Simeon. The elder of the two, appropriately called Simeon ‘the Elder’, is regarded as the first saint to sit on a pillar. In his quest for total isolation he built a high pillar in Antioch in Syria. He remained there for forty-seven years, praying and fasting. During his lifetime he became famous, attracting huge crowds of believers. He died in 459. The second Simeon, aptly named ‘the Younger’, and also ‘from the Mountain of the Miracle’, lived in the 6th century. His pillar was built on the ‘Mons Admirabilis’ near Antioch. In Russia, the images of the two Simeons gradually merged into one. They were increasingly seen as one and the same saint and their feasts were combined on 1 September.