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ST SIMEON'S MONASTERY (UZUNBAĞ)

Home to one of Turkey's stylite saints

stsimThe once romantic remains of the Monastery of St Simeon sit on top of a hill in the Hatay buried within a modern wind farm. Worst still, they are now closed to visitors for a period of five years while they are "restored" and given a cafe, parking space etc. 

Backstory

St Simeon the Younger (521-92) was one of an extraordinary band of early Christians called stylites who believed that they could get closer to God by sitting on top of pillars for extended periods of time, rather like the Indian sadhus who sit for years on end with one arm in the air.

The most famous of these saints was St Simeon the Elder who sat on top of a pillar near Aleppo for an astounding 37 years. St Simeon the Younger topped this feat in the sixth century by sitting on top of the pillar here for an even more unbelievable 40 years.

Incredible though it seems now other stylite saints set up home on pillars overlooking the Bosphorus in what is now Kuruçeşme.

Around the site

Inside the ruins you can still see the remains of the base of St Simeon's column together with the bottom of a flight of steps which visitors could mount to speak to him. Three churches were also built around the pillar.

Sadly this once remote site is not being well looked after and taggers have run riot. Presumably the planned restoration will put an end to that problem but almost certainly at the price of robbing it of its romanticism. stsim2

Sleeping

Antakya has the best choice of accommodation for visitors to the monastery.

Transport info

Get out of the Samandağ dolmuş from Antakya at Uzunbağ and either walk uphill the rest of the way (7km) or hire a taxi (you may only be able to do this from nearby Samandağ). Be sure to agree the fare for the return trip and waiting time first.

On a recent visit (May 2014) I was strongly warned against walking up or down to the site on my own. Whether or not there is a real threat the warnings left me feeling too nervous to continue on my way alone. 

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