St. Simeon Stylites the Elder

San Simeone stilita il vecchio
San Simeone was born in 389 AD at the border between Cilicia and Syria. He is known for leading the life of a Christian ascetic. Growing up under the influence of his mother Martha (she too a saint), he soon developed a deep enthusiasm for the Christian faith, adopting austere behavioural habits already at a very young age, and entering a monastery before he was sixteen. For Lent he started a long fast that reduced him to critical physical conditions and, upon leaving the convent, he started living the life of a hermit: he closed himself up in a hut for three years, and spent the whole of Lent in it, once again without eating. After this period, Simeone sought a rocky projection on the slopes of present day Mount Sheik Barakat, and settled there in a space with diameter smaller than 20 m. Seeking isolation from the growing crowds of pilgrims who visited him on the mountain, Simeone created a small platform at the top of a pillar he found nearby, and decided to live there for the rest of his life. It has been said that, since he was convinced that he could not escape from the world horizontally, he decided to do so vertically. The statue of San Simeone stilita can be found on the spires of the Central Terrace. The saint’s right hand is placed on his chest, while the left one holds a partly unfolded cartouche. Behind the right leg we notice a tree trunk to recall his particular story. He is barefooted with eyes turned upwards. The sculpture was produced by Gaetano Matteo Monti in 1811, who was at the time the sculptor of Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano.