Header image of books


Pronounced /ˈstaɪlaɪt/Help with pronunciation

One of the most remarkable examples of religious self-denial, the stylites were a group of early Christian ascetics who spent long periods of time sitting or standing on top of narrow pillars. (The word comes from the Greek stylos for a column.)

The best known of these pillar hermits, pillar saints or pillar monks was the first, St Simeon Stylites, who sat for thirty years from AD423 onwards on top of a column some 40 cubits high (a cubit was an ancient measure of length, approximately the length of a forearm, say 18 inches or 44 cm). He was followed by several others, including his disciple St Daniel Stylites and Simeon the Younger.

The stylite sometimes allowed himself a roof or a small hut for protection against the weather, but was otherwise exposed. Many remained standing day and night, only prevented from falling by a guard rail; some even stood on one leg.

The record for stylitic behaviour is probably held by the sixth-century St Alypius, who is reputed to have remained on his pillar for 67 years without a break, for the last fourteen of them lying down because his feet could no longer support him. The practice died out shortly after the turn of the last millennium.

Search World Wide Words

Support this website!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 4 Dec. 1999

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-sty1.htm
Last modified: 4 December 1999.