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Stylite

(Gr. stulos, “pillar”). An ascetic who lived permanently on the top of a natural or artificial pillar. Usually a kind of hut or platform was placed on the top of the stone in order to give protection from the weather. Food and basic requirements were normally provided by admiring disciples. Apart from the solemn duties of prayer and fasting, stylites were often gifted preachers and theologians, addressing the crowds which gathered at the foot of their pillars and pronouncing on current theological controversy. The traditional founder of this form of the religious life was Simeon the Stylite.* It was through his example that others sought to become hermits and stylites, so that in the Near East this form of asceticism was fairly common until the tenth century.