He started life as a poor shepherd on the borders of Syria, and at the age of thirteen lay outside the gates of a monastery refusing to eat or drink until they admitted him as a lowly novice.
After two years he moved on to Helidoras and because life was too easy he wound a coarse well rope around his person as underwear. Hair shirts indeed.
The rope ate into his flesh, and he never changed it, just tightened it. In time, noxious smells came from the running sores it caused. When the other monks discovered it wasn’t the drains causing the odors, Simeon was dismissed rather rapidly.
So off he went to be a full-time hermit. A hermitage didn’t come up to scratch, being far too luxurious for his taste. So he went to it alone by building a rock enclosure with no roof and chaining his leg to a rock.
This made him a target for sightseers and pilgrims, so he moved higher up the mountain he’d chosen and erected a stone pillar to live on.
His first effort in 423 was a modest six cubits high. Four years later he built another twelve cubits high. This lasted three years, and then it was into the big league: twenty-two cubits for ten years, with a final amazing effort of forty cubits to last him for his remaining 27 years.
He was popular to the last and drew great crowds to hear him preach on high. And also, one assumes, to pass him food on a long stick. A very long stick.
When he died, his body was bowed in prayer on top of his pillar. It was quite a while before anyone noticed. They just thought he was having a quiet time; just humming a bit.
N.B. A cubit is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger. Not knowing how long Simeon’s arms were we cannot tell you the exact height — but it is possible the pillar is still there somewhere in Syria. We have seen photos in some ancient travel book which we have been unable to trace so far.