Date: June 20th 1807
Making place: Greece
Materials and technics: Tempera on wood
Dimensions: H. 24,50 x w. 19 cm
Inventory number: PPP4900
Acquisition details: Roger Cabal bequest, 1998
As is indicated by the inscription in Greek at top left, this icon depicts St Simeon Stylites.
St Simeon the Elder (392-459), a Syrian monk, was given the name Stylites because he chose to live his life as a hermit on top of a column (stylos, in Greek), where he spent the rest of his days without ever coming down, without any protection from the sun or weather. He was given food in a basket pulled up by a rope.
Believers came to visit him during his life. A large pilgrimage structure, called Qalaat Semaan (north-west of Aleppo), was subsequently built around his column. Other saints, such as Simeon the Younger (521-596), lived like him on top of a column, or at the top of a tree. The latter were called dendrites (from the Greek dendron, which means “tree”).
The icon is in a popular style. The bust of the saint emerges from the shaft of the column, topped with a hollow capital as if to allow space for the body. In his left hand Simeon is holding an unrolled scroll on which is written in Greek: “Brothers, the weapons of the monk are reading, prayer and humility”, indicating by this that asceticism is a daily battle.
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