"Each part of the world recapitulates, shares in and experiences the history of the world as a whole"
Fernand Braudel

Amulet for Pilgrims

datation
5th-6th century AD
provenance
Monastery of Saint Simeon Stylites, 40km northwest of Aleppo
area
period
materials
themes

Christianity began to spread in Syria by the apostles who were the disciples of Jesus Christ. The mission was secret and the Christians took special tokens of the cross and designed special symbols to indicate their faith. These included the fish, the hen, the peacock and many others which appear on early Christian antiquities.

To worship in safety, early Christians would dig paths and places of praying underground. It was largely from Syria that Christianity began to spread to the rest of the world, including the ‘Western’ world. During the reign of Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD), the Edict of Milan was issued, in which freedom of faith was declared for all the citizens of the Empire. So, after the passing of several centuries, Christianity was considered a legally approved religion. The life of monasticism began to spread in the Empire, especially in Syria, and more public expression of the faith grew. Perhaps the most famous early Christian monk is Saint Simeon, or, in Arabic, Sam'aan, (386-459 AD) - who built a pillar – or stylite - and lived on top of it for nearly 42 years. He devoted his life to worship, and lived in asceticism and severe abstinence. He became a famous saint all across the Empire, and pilgrims from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain), the Gaul’s lands (France), England and Italy came to the convent to visit him and gain his blessing.

The Citadel of Sama'an is actually a great basilica complex which began to be built a few years after Saint Simeon’s death and became a mass pilgrimage center for people all over the world. It is located on Lylon Mountain at a distance of 20 km south-west of Afrin, and 40 km from the north-west of Aleppo.

This small black pottery object would have served as a token that pilgrims would keep for blessing and salvation. It shows an image of Saint Simeon on the pillar, wearing his Syrian ascetic’s robe. There is a cross above his head, while two angels fly above his shoulders and carry a crown. There is a ladder leaned against the column, which serves as a connection between the people and the saint. At the lower part, there is a person carrying something like a crown in his hand and at the left there is an incense burner.

see also