Byzantine Church of Saint Symeon Stylites in Syria damaged by missile attack
Around or just after midnight on Friday, 13 May 2016, The Day After NGO reported that a Russian airstrike hit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Qal’at Se’man, known as the Church of Saint Symeon Stylites.
|The Church of Saint Symeon Stylites photographed on 5 April 2010, before the Syrian uprising |
[Credit: Bernard Gagnon/WikiCommons]
The church was consecrated in 475 CE/AD, and the entire structure is built around the remains of a column that was once home to the very first stylite saint, Symeon the Elder. Stylite saints were early Christian monks who chose an extreme form of asceticism. They lived their lives entirely on the top of tall columns or pillars (stylos, in Greek). By restricting the movement of their bodies and placing themselves up high, stylites tried to imitate the sufferings of Christ on the cross and attempted to use prayer to combat demons, which were thought at the time to live in the air.
|The monastery buildings to the east of the main church have suffered the greatest damage |
After the death of the saint, the Byzantine emperor Zeno paid for the construction of a monumental church surrounding the column. Qal’at Se’man remained a very famous and important pilgrimage site throughout the Middle Ages and well into the present-day, when it became one of Syria’s most famous tourist attractions.
|Significant damage to the eastern-most pediment of the south basilica narthex facade and damage |
to the wall adjoining the cloister/monastery [Credit: AYS]
When the revolution began in Syria, Qal’at Se’man became an important stronghold for opposition groups. It has been difficult to track who has had control of it, but it has belonged alternately to the Islamic Front and to Kurdish groups. These groups have mostly used the church to store food and medical supplies. At no time was the building ever under the control of ISIS, or, to my knowledge, ever a target for ISIS.
|Early photo evidence shows significant damage to the column pedestal (taken from oposite angles) |
Author: Shannon Steiner | Source: Medium: Are You Syrious? [May 17, 2016]