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Famous pillars: Is it easy to live on pillars for decades and why do Christians need it?
Famous pillars: Is it easy to live on pillars for decades and why do Christians need it?
Saint Simeon is considered the ancestor of the Christian pillar-dom

Indian yogis and Buddhist monks have always been renowned for their unique physical abilities, acquired through a combination of discipline, meditation and prayer. However, 1700 years ago, a number of Christians showed such an incredible and, in modern parlance, extreme example of discipline and love for God, before which the practices of yogis and monks simply fade away. These people are pillars. Living on a pole for decades is truly incomprehensible.

The first pillar

In the IV century, Christianity was still a relatively young religion, its adherents experienced many difficulties, existing among many different faiths. These conditions fostered an extreme asceticism, which was shown by especially faithful believers. For some, this meant strict fasting or even starvation. For others, the form of close communication with the Almighty and detachment from earthly temptations became hermitage. Stylite is one of the most amazing forms of such asceticism.

The concept of stylites (pillars) comes from the Greek word stylos, which means "pillar" or "column". In other words, a pillar-dweller is an inhabitant of the column.

Stylites Simeon the Elder, Simeon the Younger Divnogorets and Alipy. / Theophanes the Greek, 1378, Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior (Novgorod)

Except for the ancient legends about some hermits, passed from mouth to mouth, the first and most famous pillar was Simeon, who was later canonized. He was born in about 390 and died on September 2, 459. This unique person lived near the city of Aleppo. Already at the age of 13, he clearly felt like a Christian, and at 16 he went to a monastery - and at first he lay in front of its gates for seven days, until he was finally accepted into the monastery.

Simeon was known as the most ascetic and, as it seemed from the outside, the strangest of all monks. And he clearly felt that, after all, his place was not here. Eventually, he left the monastery and began to live in a secluded hut, which he built for himself. For a year and a half he lived in strict fasting and prayer, and during the period of Great Lent, as the legend says, he did not drink or eat anything at all. The people around him said that at that moment he experienced a miracle, and they treated him with great respect.

Illustration by W.E. F. Britten for Alfred Lord Tennyson's Poem Saint Simeon the Stylite (1841)

The next stage of asceticism for Simeon was "standing." He stood until he fell exhausted. But even this was not enough for him. Simeon tried more and more new paths to holiness: he lived in a narrow well, lived in a twenty-meter space on the side of a mountain (now known as Mount Simeon), he also wrapped coarse ropes around his body, exhausting himself with wounds. However, it was not possible to achieve complete detachment from the world: Crowds of pilgrims besieged Simeon. They demanded from him that he reveal the "truth" to them, but precisely in search of this very truth and answers to the main questions, he tried to retire in thought and prayer. Finally, Simeon found a cardinal way - to live on a pillar.

Fragment of the icon depicting St. Simeon

Its first pillar was nine feet high and was crowned with a small platform about one square meter in area, along the edges of which railings were made (so that the pillar did not accidentally fall). On this pillar, Simeon was determined to spend the rest of his life.

Boys from the local monastery brought him food, milk and water: they tied her to the ropes that were lowered down, and Simeon pulled them up. The details of the life of the stylite (change of clothes, departure of natural needs, sleep, etc.) have hardly reached our days.According to one version, when his clothes were worn out, new ones were handed up to him. According to the other, he remained in rags until they fell from him, and then he continued to stand without clothes.

Russian icon of 1465

At first, local monks decided that such a life on a pillar was nothing more than pride, a desire to exalt oneself over others. And they decided to check it out. The monks urged Simeon to come down from the pillar. He did not resist and obediently began to descend. At that moment, they realized that this was not pride at all, but really an indicator of true faith and detachment from everything earthly.

Ruins of the Church of St. Simeon the Stylite of the Byzantine era (Aleppo neighborhood, Syria)

Evidence has survived to this day that Simeon was able to heal people from physical and mental ailments, and could also predict the future. In addition, he regularly delivered sermons to believers from his pillar.

It is known that Simeon lived on the column for 37 years (until old age) and died on it - presumably from infections. Today he is revered as a reverend saint by both the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

After the death of Simeon, other Christians (especially in Syria and Palestine) began to follow his example. One of them, who lived in the territory of modern Turkey, even took the same name for himself, and they began to call him Simeon the Younger.

A rounded stone left over from the 60-foot pillar on which Simeon lived

In Russia, the Christian feat of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, who prayed to God, standing on a stone, every night for a thousand days, can also be considered one of the forms of pillage.

Icon depicting St. Seraphim on a stone

Stalkerism of the XXI century

By the end of the 6th century, such a form as pillage in the Christian world almost disappeared, and only a few chose this path. And it is all the more surprising that in our time Saint Simeon has a follower. The Georgian monk Maxim Kavtaradze, who has been living on the pillar for a quarter of a century, can be considered a modern pillar. True, he practices a more civilized form of pillage in everyday life.

The modern monk, like Simeon once, has chosen a radical way of solitude

A Georgian Christian built a dwelling for himself on the top of a natural pillar - a narrow and high rock. This pillar is located in a remote gorge in western Georgia. The nearest village is 10 kilometers away.

A monolithic rock in a secluded place in Georgia, on the top of which a pillar monk settled

Once upon a time on the top of the cliff there was a chapel of the Katskhinsky Savior-Ascension Monastery - ancient hermit monks lived here. Father Maxim came to this region in the early 1990s. Before being tonsured a monk, he led a completely unrighteous life, even sat in prison for selling drugs, but having gained faith, he gave up his bad habits and decided to devote himself to God. With the help of fellow monks, he gradually rebuilt this church. Since then, he lives here alone and only occasionally descends from his 40-meter pillar along a metal staircase.

Descending the stairs takes approximately 20 minutes

In the chapel, located on the pillar, several cells are equipped. And at the foot of the cliff there is a small monastery in which several monks and novices serve.

Everything he needs is delivered to the rock on a winch

Like Simeon Stylpnik, Maxim Kavtaradze tries not to communicate with the outside world and receives food by lifting them on ropes (local novices bring him supplies). However, he sometimes finds time to communicate with difficult teenagers and younger priests who come to him for advice. In addition, he has enough icons, books and even a bed.

Modern stolpniki is not as austere as in the 4th-5th centuries

The Phenomenon of Modern Hermitage: Why Do People Run from the Benefits of Civilization?… Everyone has their own reasons for this.

Text: Anna Belova

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