Qal'at Sem'an: Historical accounts

Introduction: In addition to the material evidence of his monastery and pilgrimage complex at Qal'at Sem'an, including "blessings" taken from there and a few votive objects left behind, we know about the life of St. Symeon the Stylite the Elder (d. 459) from written accounts. These include one in Greek by Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrhus (ca. 393–ca. 466) and anonymous vitae in Greek and Syriac. As far away as France, Bishop Gregory of Tours referred in ca. 587 to "the book of his [Symeon's] life."

Translations: Some passages have been simplified and words added in brackets to aid comprehension.

Gregory writes that St. Symeon avoided looking at women, including even his mother. On one occasion,
a woman clothed herself in male garments and wanted to enter the basilica of his column; the poor woman thought that in such clothes she could hide something from the Most High [God], but she disregarded [the saying] of the apostle [Paul], that 'God is not mocked' [Galatians 6:7]. When she arrived at the church and lifted her foot to cross the holy threshold, she immediately fell backward, collapsed, and died. This was enough for the people to ensure that no other woman would attempt this, as they saw what a terrible vengeance had been imposed.
In the Syriac Life of St. Symeon, the saint uses his "divine voice" to bless substances near him, including earth or dust, water, and oil, and then instructs sick petitioners to rub the substance on themselves to effect healing. He tells a boy:
take some of the dust in front of you [at Qal'at Sem'an] and rub it all over your body.
Theodoret enumerated the wide variety of pilgrims—presumably only men and boys—to Symeon's complex:
Ishmaelites [Arabs], Persians and their Armenian subjects, Iberians [Georgians], Himyarites, and men from even farther away; and also many from the far west—Spaniards, Britons, the Celts who live between them, and too many Italians to mention.
In "the great city of Rome," Theodoret writes,
the saint has become so famous that icons (εἰκόνας) [of Symeon] have been placed at the entrances to all the workshops (ἐργαστηρίων) to ensure the safety and protection of the occupants.
These icons of the saint may have been painted or carved, or even tokens made of earth from Qal'at Sem'an.

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Symeon the Stylite the Elder token, Walters Art Museum 48.2666