Qal`at as Sim`an Things to Do

  • Octagonal Court & St Simeon's Pillar
    Octagonal Court & St Simeon's Pillar
    by MM212
  • Tourists in the Octagonal Court
    Tourists in the Octagonal Court
    by MM212
  • Monastery & Cloister
    Monastery & Cloister
    by MM212

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    Church of St Simeon

    by zuyao Written Jun 19, 2009

    The Church of St. Simeon (or Qala Siman as it is known to the Syrians) is about 1 hour out of Aleppo. It is the site of where St. Simeon chose to lead the religious life alone as a hermit monk. But instead of living in a cave, St. Simeon lived on top of a pillar 12-18 meters high. He used to preach atop this pillar. After his death, the church was built at the exact site of this pillar and came to be known as the Church of St. Simeon.

    The ruins of this church is perched atop a barren hill and is part of a walled complex of monastery, churches and dormitories. Entrance SYP150. The church can be reached on a half-day trip from Aleppo or Idleb.

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    Enclosure Walls

    by MM212 Updated Apr 22, 2008
    Northern section of the walls & spring flowers
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    Dating from the 10th century AD, the walls around the complex were built hastily by the Byzantines during their brief re-occupation of Syria under Nicephorus Phocas. The walls were meant to fortify the complex against potential attacks by the Arabs. The walls enclose the entire complex and are best preserved in the north and west.

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    Saint Simeon Stylites

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008

    The pillar on which Simeon Stylites spent 37 years has, over time, been reduced to nothing but its base and a block of stone. Over the years, pilgrims visiting the church chipped pieces of the pillar as souvenirs until most of it was gone. It is located in the middle of the central Octagonal Court, linking the four basilicas.

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    St Simeon - Southern Façade

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Saint Simeon's Main Fa��ade
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    The main façade of Saint Simeon's Church, located to the south, has survived incredibly well since its construction in the 5th century AD. It is considered the main architectural feature of Saint Simeon, and the most recognisable part. The façade is preceeded by a narthex, while the main façade behind it is made up of three arches topped with four arched windows and crowned with a single triangular wooden roof. Looking at the southern façade from a distance, it seems rather reminscent of the domed façade of the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, which was built with Byzantine craftsmanship.

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    Southern Narthex

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Spring Flowers & the Narthex
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    The main southern façade of Saint Simeon is preceeded by an intricately carved narthex made up of three arches, each topped with a triangle roof. The wooden roof of the narthex has not survived, but the holes on which the beams rested can still be seen in the stones of the façade. The columns supporting the arches are largely decorative, drawing upon and modifying Roman architectural elements. The column capitals are made up of acanthus leaves bending to one side and are identical in design to the column capitals used in the ancient Cathedral of Saint Helena, now Madrassa al-Halawiya, in Aleppo.

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    Pilgrims' Lodging

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Springtime at the Pilgrims Dormitory

    To the east of the Baptistery is a long structure, lying mostly in ruins. This structure once housed the many pilgrims who came to visit the complex of Saint Simeon. They must have enjoyed beautiful views towards the east!

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    Monastery & Cloister

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Monastery & Cloister
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    A large monastery that once housed resident and visiting monks and priests is located immediately to the south-west of Saint Simeon's Church. Architecturally, the monastery is more typically Syrian than the church itself, with the bold blocks forming perpendicular lines, rather than the Byzantine curves of the church. Substantial sections of the monastery have survived, with a three-floor façade standing upright. The cloister is between the monastery itself and the Eastern and Southern Basilicas of Saint Simeon.

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    The Northern Basilica

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Northern fa��ade
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    The Northern Basilica has also largely survived intact. Its façade, which once contained a columned portico, though is in partial ruins, with some of the columns half upright. The Mortuary Chapel and the north-eastern terrace are accessed through the front of the Northern Basilica.

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    Eastern Basilica - Chevet

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Exterior of the Chevet
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    A most impressive chevet lay at the end of the Eastern Basilica. The Chevet is one of the most notable architectural features of Saint Simeon, surviving largely intact. It is intricately decorated both inside and outside. When visiting St Simeon, one must make sure to explore the exterior of the church at the northeastern end which allows the visitor to view the remarkable exterior of the Chevet.

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    The Western Basilica

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Views from the Western Terrace
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    The least preserved of the four is the Western Basilica. At the end of it, though, there is a terrace that affords the visitor a magnificent view over the plains and hills extending all the way to the modern Turkey.

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    Octagonal Court

    by MM212 Updated Apr 21, 2008
    Arches that once carried the dome
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    The four basilicas that make up the cruciform Saint Simeon's Church meet at the Octagonal Court. In the centre of the court is Saint Simeon's pillar, or what's left of it. The court was once covered with a wooden dome that collapsed and was never rebuilt after a 6th century earthquake. The octagon is formed by eight adjacent arches that carried the dome, four of which lead into each of the basilicas, alternating between four corner exedrae.

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    Blocks of Stone

    by MM212 Written Apr 21, 2008
    Welcome to Saint Simeon
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    Upon arrival at Saint Simeon, immediately after the ticket office, the first sight one comes across is an incredibly ornate block of stone (see main photo). The Byzantine-style carvings are in an amazingly well-preserved state and the block itself was probably part of a frame of an arch or a window. It is unfortunate that this piece of stone is lying on the ground as shown and was not part of a reconstruction of the ruins. To the left of the stone is a small yard with numerous other fragments of statues and building stones (see other photos). There is also a café to the right for a pause, if needed.

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    The Eastern Basilica

    by MM212 Updated Apr 20, 2008
    The Eastern Basilica (looking west)
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    The Eastern Basilica was the largest of the four basilicas that made up Saint Simeon's Church. It is also the most elaborately decorated and contains an impressive chevet at the end that has survived fully intact. It was built at a slight angle from the other basilicas in order to orient it exactly towards the east. It is in this Basilica that the main religious rituals took place.

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    The Southern Basilica

    by MM212 Updated Apr 20, 2008
    Southern Basilica seen from the Monastery
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    Pilgrims entered the Church of Saint Simeon through the Southern Basilica. Its façade is also the main façade of the church and the one that has survived amazingly intact. To the east is the Cloister of the Monastery. Visitors today still enter the Basilica through the same entrance as pilgrims once did.

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    Pilgrims' Entrance

    by MM212 Written Apr 20, 2008
    Arched Gateway

    Via Sacra, leading the pilgrims from Deir Sama'an up the hill, reaches the complex of Saint Simeon from the south. The point of entry is located just to the west of the Baptistery, lower down the slope. An arched gateway surrounded by some buildings, possibly additional housing, led into the complex. The arched gateway has survived, but the surrounding structures lie in ruins - see attached photo.

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