Destination = Qal'a Sim'an, Syria
Noble arches pitch from part-pillars, tumbled piles, broken masonry and rubble; a boulder all that's left of the most famous pillar of all.
Saint Simeon moved from a monastery to here for the life of a hermit, living on a 15m high stone pillar. Followers come from far and wide to hear him preach twice each day.
The Saint dies in 459, after 37yrs atop his pillar home, the body taken to Antioch escorted by hundreds of soldiers and 7-bishops; the pillar now a pilgrimage. Within decades, there are 4-basilicas, spreading out from a central octagon built about the Saint’s famous pillar - the 5th Century Byzantine church perched on a barren knoll of a hill, the ancient city of Aleppo 60km away to the south.
In the years that follow there are sieges and earthquakes, uprisings, cholera and Mongol invasions. Hundreds of thousands dead.
Here in 2010, black-clad women wander wide dusty paths by walls the colour of sand. Modern ghosts mingle with the old; a rolling timeless desert for all to see.
I wonder if the future could be as savage as the past.
Photo: A pillar in the storm - Church of Saint Simeon Stylites, Qal'a Sim'an, Syria _ Vyacheslav Argenberg