Stylites are Christian ascetics who live on top of a pillar or column, they spent their days standing and preaching to those who come to seek their wisdom. The Stylites also spent their time in fasting and prayer.
The first known Stylite was Saint Simeon, he climbed a pillar in Syria in AD 423 and remained there until his death. For 37 years, Simeon spent time in fasting and prayer whilst standing on the pillar and preaching to those who visited. Inspired by Saint Simeon and they way he lived, many more sought to live their lives like him. Saint Daniel the Stylite was one of the first to imitate Simeon in Constantinople, but he was not the last. Others were also inspired by this lifestyle and climbed pillars to live isolated lives dedicated to God in prayer and fasting. Other stylites included Saint Luke the younger and Saint Alypius stayed on his pillar for 67 years.
Saint Simeon Stylite was born to a shepherd’s family in Syria, from a young age he was attracted to the idea of living in prayer and fasting. He joined a monastery but left to become a hermit as he sought a more isolated life. His first pillar was about 2 meters high, with a railing to prevent him from falling. He remained standing and sitting only sometimes, usually at night. He was constantly exposed to the open air, rain, wind, sun and more. Later, Simeon extended his pillar to 15 meters, where he remained until his death, only coming down from the pillar to receive gifts of food from visitors, who also sought for spiritual guidance. People came on pilgrimage, seeking not only guidance but also for healing and enlightenment in prayer. He also inspired and converted many, including the Emperor Leo I to support the Chalcedonian party during the 5th Century disagreement over the nature of Christ.
Saint Simeon teaches us that prayer and fasting is essential for our spiritual nourishment. Simeon, while blessed with great wisdom, remained humble and sought to share his wisdom with others.