Mark Bloch says: I was first made aware of St. Simeon Stylites when I saw Luis Buñel’s SIMON OF THE DESERT in 1975 or so. It knocked me out. Twenty years later as I waited for my son to be born, I read the text that follows in a book I found, SAINTS FOR NOW edited by Clare Boothe Luce (Sheed and Ward, Inc. 1952). Again, I was knocked out by the concept of an ascetic who sits on a pillar to show his devotion to God. I looked for a long time for more about the writer George Lamb. According to a web page I finally found, he is a historian, translator and apparently a big fan of organized religion. See the text that is indented below and more at the bottom of this page. You'll read more about Lamb and about the book this came from. But mostly you’ll learn more about this wacky saint! Enjoy! And make sure you see Buñel’s film.
From a 1998 BBC web page:
Author George Lamb was a latter-day fan of Simeon Stylites. He wrote in 1952 : “ Simeon seemed to have become famous by doing absolutely nothing. He had done nothing, and got paid for it, so to speak. This struck me as pretty shrewd. I was lazy by nature in those days.”
St Simeon Stylites (pron: sty-lite-ees), who lived near Antioch from 387 to 459, roadtested a variety of activities to find something that would take him closer to God. These included tying rope around himself until his flesh rotted and teemed with worms, burying himself up to his neck for a few months, and living in a small dome chained to an iron ball for 10 years.
Climbing a pillar 60 feet high (18 metres), he stayed there until he died, 36 years later. He spent his years preaching and gaining admirers, and even had a number of followers who also took to the top of pillars. They became known as Stylites.
But Lamb did point to one of the reasons the Roman Catholic Church has venerated St Simeon: “ There is safety in numbers, and so Simeon went up there alone; there is dizziness for the timid at the prospect of great heights, and Simeon faced it.”
St. Simeon was a Peculiar Person; of that there can be doubt. To live on top of a pillar for thirty-odd years marks a man out in history whether he has the incidental value of being a saint or not. And so St. Simeon was a favourite of mine long before I was a Catholic, long even before I knew he was a saint. Somebody produced a one-act play at school, I remember, in which this weird creature appeared as hero; whether the play was funny or not I can’t remember, though being a schaol play it probably was. Anyway, this was my first introduction to St. Simeon, and to the fact that in the past some people had stood on pillars and done nothing else for years on end. But this had all happened long ago: I was hazy