For scholars and students of Late Antiquity, the stylite’s column exerts a special appeal. Scholars have examined literary representations of stylites and sought out visual parallels for the phenomenon of column-standing. This article shows that topographical contexts were central to establishing the potency of the column as a holy object and the trajectory of stylitism in history. I employ the term topography broadly to encompass the physical characteristics of an area, the ways in which humans augmented physical characteristics through the built environment, and specific architectural organizations. I examine three topographical contexts and make three interconnected arguments. By selecting the hill adjacent to Telanissos as the location for his columns, the premier stylite Symeon (d. 459) participated in a long-standing regional tradition of activating the numinous power of high places and stone through cultic activity. The monumental pilgrimage complex built after Symeon’s death made the column a relic and integrated veneration of Symeon into liturgical ritual. The incorporation of stylites into northern Syria’s cenobitic communities circumscribed stylitism as a distinctly monastic vocation. These three contexts illustrate that the significance of the column was located in processes of production and reception. At the same time, stylite columns were not passive objects. They faced the gods of old; they enriched ecclesiastical rituals; they molded the bodies of those who activated them; they proclaimed the ascendancy of monastic institutions. As both products of their topography and agents within it, stylite columns constructed a distinctive Christian landscape in Syria’s limestone massif.

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