Qal`at as Sim`an Travel Guide

  • Saint Simeon - Southern Façade
    Saint Simeon - Southern Façade
    by MM212
  • Qal`at as Sim`an
    by Aitana
  • al-Moushabbak
    by MM212

Qal`at as Sim`an Things to Do

  • Church of St Simeon

    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...

  • Enclosure Walls

    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.

  • Saint Simeon Stylites

    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.

  • St Simeon - Southern Façade

    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...

  • Southern Narthex

    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...

  • Pilgrims' Lodging

    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!

  • Monastery & Cloister

    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...

  • The Northern Basilica

    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.

  • Eastern Basilica - Chevet

    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...

  • The Western Basilica

    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.

  • Octagonal Court

    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...

  • Blocks of Stone

    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...

  • The Eastern Basilica

    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...

  • The Southern Basilica

    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.

  • Pilgrims' Entrance

    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...


Qal`at as Sim`an Transportation

  • MM212's Profile Photo

    Getting to Saint Simeon

    by MM212 Written Apr 21, 2008

    Saint Simeon is located about 45 minutes north-west of Aleppo. It is an easy day trip, particularly if you have your own car (with or without a driver). Best is to leave Aleppo around 8am and be back by noon. You could also make a stop at al-Moushabbak Church along the way. The trip could also be extended for a visit to Deir Sema'an, right below Saint Simeon. However, if you can afford to spend an entire day, you should consider touring the numerous 'dead cities' around Saint Simeon.

    The road to Saint Simeon Turn left - you are finally there
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    • Road Trip

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Qal`at as Sim`an Local Customs

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    Selling Flowers in Springtime

    by MM212 Updated Apr 27, 2008

    A young local boy, with brown hair and blue-grey eyes, was attempting to sell wild flowers to the tourists to make a living. He was rather timid, but quite friendly, so I gave him a tip in exchange for this photo, instead of buying a flower.

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Qal`at as Sim`an Off The Beaten Path

  • Mushabbak Church

    One of the best-preserved churches in the 'dead cities' of northwestern Syria, al-Mushabbak is located about halfway between Aleppo and Saint Simeon. The church dates from the late 5th century AD and was built to provide an initial stop along the important pilgrimage route to Saint Simeon. As a result, the best craftsmen and architects were...

  • Deir Sema'an - Telanissos

    The village of Deir Sema'an is located just to the south of the complex of Saint Simeon and can be clearly seen from the Baptistery. The village, under its ancient name Telanissos, used to serve as a final stop for pilgrims visiting Saint Simeon. Pilgrims walked from Deir Sema'an along Via Sacra up the hill all the way to Saint Simeon. The village...

  • Other Dead Cities Along The Way

    On the way from Aleppo to Saint Simeon, you will come across several abandoned Byzantine structures (other than Moushabbak Church). If you have the time, it may be worth making the detour to visit some of these structures.


Qal`at as Sim`an Favorites

  • Views from Saint Simeon

    The Saint Simeon complex is perched on a high hill with strategic views extending west all the way to modern Turkey. Attached are photos of some of the magnificent views.

  • Springtime in Saint Simeon

    Visiting Saint Simeon in springtime was such a treat. Wild flowers were in full bloom everywhere around the complex of Saint Simeon. The flowers along with the perfect spring weather made the visit quite magical. For more pictures, check out the travelogue "Springtime in Saint Simeon."

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The Baptistery
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