The Menil Collection, Houston

St. Simeon Stylites the Younger (died 592) peers down from his column, at the center of this sixth- or seventh-century earthen token. A Christian ascetic, Simeon lived and prayed on top of a pillar that stood on a mountain southwest of Antioch. Swarms of Byzantine pilgrims trekked up what was known as the Miraculous Mountain to see Simeon and to gather some of the red earth from the base of his pillar. This dust, according to the Life of St. Simeon, could still a tempest, revive an ailing donkey and grow hair on a bald man.

By carrying tokens depicting Simeon, pilgrims sought to invoke that saint’s protection. Called eulogiai (singular eulogia, from the Greek for “blessing”), the flasks and amulets pictured on these pages provide a glimpse of a Byzantine art form created for Christian pilgrims.