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A Terracotta

Pilgrims Token
from the Citadel of
Samaan in Syria
By Hadrian Mr lijah Bar Isral

The word Samaan means Simeon in Arabic, and

marks the place of the basilica which began to be
built where the pillar of Saint Simeon once stood,
even incorporating parts of the pillar itself into the
Altar. After the Islamic Conquest the entire complex
was converted into a military citadel.
This ceramic pilgrims token comes from the 5th
Century, during which time the Byzantine Empire was
still fiercely persecuting and murdering Monophysite
Christians. Possessing this token of the Empire was
not only a spiritual blessing and souvenir for the
pilgrim, but also a get-home-free pass to prove ones
Orthodoxy should one find oneself detained by
imperial troops.

This small black ceramic token

shows an image of Saint Simeon
Stylites meditating on his pillar,
wearing the traditional robe of
the Syrian ascetics. The ladder
leaning against the column,
serves as his connection to the
Earth and to his disciples. A
deacon on the ground below
him holds up a crown, and to the
right of the pillar there is an
incense burner, like the one
found at the basilica. The
hold up crowns,
representing martyrdom, an
important symbol of this
physical death was replaced by
mortification of the flesh in the
minds of the faithful. mulet-for-pilgrims#sthas h.h122by S V.dpuf

He spent most of each day standing atop his pillar, with

his arms outstretched in a mode of worshipful faith and
devotion to God. His ascetism made him famous
around the world, and thousands of people joined
him, congregated at the base of his pillar, and listening
to his wisdom and unceasing prayers.

Terracotta pilgrims token (5th century

AD) from the Monastery of Saint Simeon
Stylites at the Citadel of Sama'an, now in
the National Museum of Damascus, Syria .


Saint Simeon Stylites (386-459 AD) spent forty-two

years atop a pillar (i.e. a style) out where everyone
could see him, at Sama'an, which was in his time a
small village located on Lylon Mountain
approximately 20 km south-west of Afrin, and forty
kilometers north-west of Aleppo, Syria. He ate, slept,
defecated, and did everything else in open air. When
once he was asked why he was not ashamed he
famously responded, shame is a delusion, since we
are never alone, but always with God.