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Simon the Tanner

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Saint Simon the Shoemaker (10th century), also known as Simon the Tanner (Sama'an el-Dabbagh in Arabic), is the Coptic Orthodox saint associated with the legend of the moving the Mokattam Mountain in Cairo, Egypt, during the rule of the Muslim Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li-Deenillah (953 - 975).

Saint Simon (Simeon) lived towards the end of the 10th century when Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid Caliph, Al-Muizz and Abraham the Syrian was the Coptic Pope.

During the years of 1989-1991, the Coptic clergymen and archaeologists searched for the relics of the 10th century tanner and saint, Simon. Simon was apparently buried in the cemetery of al-Habash in Old Cairo; however while searching for Simon’s relics his skeleton was discovered in the St. Mary's Church[1](and according to others was found in the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Holy Virgin, Babylon El-Darag) while it was being restored.[2] Simon’s skeleton was discovered on August 4, 1991 about one meter below the surface of the church. What was of particular interest when finding his skeleton was that the hair on his head was still intact and had not disintegrated because of the high humidity of where his body was found. The hair that was intact was only on the back of his skull and it was deduced that the man had a bald head in the front and thick hair on the back of his head. [3]

In the church where Simon’s skeleton was found there was also a painting that depicted the Coptic Pope Abraham and a bald-headed tanner carrying two water jars. The bald-headed tanner is most likely Simon because he was known for carrying water jars to the poor. The painting further depicted some of the characteristics of the discovered skeleton. In a church nearby a pot was also discovered and was dated to be more than one thousand years old and it is believed that this clay pot was the vessel that Simon used to carry water to the poor. The jar is now kept in the new Church of Saint Simon on Muquattam, Cairo.[4]


The miracle of moving the mountain

Saint Simon the Tanner lived towards the end of the tenth century when Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz, and Abraam the Syrian was the 62nd Coptic Pope (975 - 978).

At the time, many Copts (Coptic Christians) in Egypt were engaged in handicrafts. Saint Simon worked in one of those crafts widespread in Babylon (Old Cairo) which was tanning, a craft still known there till this day. This profession involved also other crafts that depend on the process, from where St. Simon carried several titles related to skins; Saint Simon the Tanner, the Cobbler, the Shoemaker.[5]

The Caliph Al-Muizz, who reigned during 972-975 AD [6], used to invite different religious leaders to debate in his presence. In one of those meetings in which the patriarch Abraham, also known as Pope Abraam and a Jew named Yaqub (Jacob) Ibn Yusuf Ibn Killis (and in another account of this story, was known as Moses) were present, Abraham got the upper hand in the debate. Plotting to take revenge, Ibn Killis quoted the verse where Jesus Christ, said in Matthew: If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20), and demanded that the Pope prove that his religion is right by means of this. After heading Ibn Killis say this, the caliph asked Abraham What sayest thou concerning this word? Is it your gospel or not? [7] The patriach answered Yes, it is in it. After hearing Abraham answer, the caliph demanded that this very miracle be performed by Abraham’s hand, or else he would be killed by the hand of the sword. It was then after hearing this that the patriarch asked for three days to complete the miracle. [8]

Cairo, Old Cairo, Hanging Church, Egypt, Oct 2004

The Hanging Church, Cairo, built in the 3rd or 4th century AD.

Abraham compiled a group of monks, priests and elders. He told them to all stay in the church for three days for a penance. On the morning of the third day, Abraham was praying in the Church of the Holy Virgin al-Mu’allaqa, when he saw the Holy Virgin. The Holy Virgin told him to go to the great market. She said to him: “there thou wilt find a one-eyed man carrying on his shoulder a jar full of water; seize him, for he it is at whose hands this miracle shall be manifested.”[9] Abraham listened to the Holy Virgin and went to the market where he met the man the Holy Virgin spoke of. The man who the Virgin spoke of was Simeon the tanner, who had plucked out his eye because of a passage from the bible (Matthew 5:29-30) which said: If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Simeon told Abraham to go out with his priests and all his people to the mountain with the caliph and all his soldiers. Simeon then told Abraham to cry out O Lord, have mercy three times, and each time to make the sign of the cross over the mountain. [10] The patriarch followed the words of Simeon the tanner (who was in the crowd of people) and the mountain was lifted. After the miracle was performed in the presence of the Caliph, the Pope turned left and right looking for St. Simon the Tanner, but he had disappeared and no one could find him (a sign of the saint's great humility).The caliph then turned to Abraham and said O patriarch, I have recognized the correctness of thy faith.

Shortly after the miracle took place, Al-Muizz decided to convert to Christianity. A baptismal font, large enough for the immersion of a grown man, was built for him in the Church of Saint Mercurius. This font still exists today and is known as “Maamoudiat Al-Sultan”, which means, Baptistry of the Sultan. In commemoration of this miracle, the Coptic Orthodox Church observes three days of fasting before the beginning of the Nativity Fast (Advent).

The Monastery of Saint Simon

The Monastery of St. Simeon (Dair Anbâ Samâ‘an) is located on the west bank of the Nile[11] behind the Zabbaleen(Zabbalin) village. The Zabbaleen village is a village where the garbage collectors of Cairo live. In 1969 the then Governor of Cairo decided to move all of the garbage collectors to one of the hills of Mokattam (Muquattam). In 1987 there were approximately 15,000 people living in the Zabbaleen village. [12]

Reaching the monastery is not an easy feat and is difficult to get to, due to having to wind through the Zabbaleen village. In the early 1900’s the monastery was only accessible by either crossing the desert from Qubbet al-Hawa or by sailing across the Nile from Aswân and then walking up the Wâdî al-Qurqur. [13] The monastery, which was originally dedicated to Anbâ Hadra of Aswân, was just recently erected and dedicated to Saint Simeon. [14]

The monastery was built in the 7th century and reconstructed in the 10th century. By the 13th century, however, the monastery was in ruin and there was an inscription found in the monastery that said that a Mutammar Ali had visited in 1295 A.D. Although though the monastery was ruined the main features of the monastery were preserved. [15]

One of the churches in the monastery had numerous Coptic inscriptions inside and there were slabs of stones giving the history of many of the monks that had lived there.[16]


Relics

The relics of St. Simon were discovered in 1991 in St. Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church in Babylon, Saint Mary Church (Babylon Al-Darag) in Coptic Cairo.

See also

References

Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Simon the Tanner. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Lara Iskander. "The Monastery of Saint Simon(Simeon) the Tanner". http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tanner.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  2. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  3. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  4. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  5. Lara Iskander. "The Monastery of Saint Simon(Simeon) the Tanner". http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tanner.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  6. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  7. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  8. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  9. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  10. Meinardus, Otto F.A (2002). “Coptic Saints and Pilgrimages”, p.58. The American University in Cairo Press.,Cairo.
  11. Meinardus, Otto F.A (1965). “Christian Egypt Ancient and Modern”, p.328. French Institute of Oriental Archeology.,Cairo.
  12. Lara Iskander. "The Monastery of Saint Simon(Simeon) the Tanner". http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tanner.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  13. Meinardus, Otto F.A (1965). “Christian Egypt Ancient and Modern”, p.328. French Institute of Oriental Archeology.,Cairo.
  14. Lara Iskander. "The Monastery of Saint Simon(Simeon) the Tanner". http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tanner.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  15. Meinardus, Otto F.A (1965). “Christian Egypt Ancient and Modern”, p.329. French Institute of Oriental Archeology.,Cairo.
  16. Meinardus, Otto F.A (1965). “Christian Egypt Ancient and Modern”, p.329. French Institute of Oriental Archeology.,Cairo.

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