The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 24, 2013

October 24, 1710

The life of the man who wrote about the lives of the saints began on this date, October 24, 1710, according to some accounts. Alban Butler, a Jesuit, was continuing the work of a fellow Jesuit, Heribert Rosweyde (January 2 1569, to October 5, 1629). It was Rosweyde who came up with the idea of collecting the many manuscripts listing saints, and other historical church figures, and their deeds, and producing a single huge multi-volume reference . Butler's work- sorting, studying, writing, summarizing a enormous number of manuscripts-, continued this goal, which Rosweyde had left unfinished, And Butler wrote in English. His is the name we associate with hagiography. I used a 19th century edition of Butler's The lives of the fathers, martyrs, and other principal saints, to recall the story of Simon Stylites.

Although the name Simon Stylites has some currency in the modern world, I now realize the exact phenomenon of residing on top of a pillar, is unclear to me. Here is some information on Simon Stylites, properly called by Butler: St. Simon Stylites, the Younger, and we rely of course on Butler's work.

The scene is Syria in the 6th century. Simon was associated with a monastery in the desert from a very early age. Near the monastery was a hermit, with a reputation for holiness, who lived on a pillar. Simon "served" this hermit, and was impressed with that model of holiness. The hermit, according to Butler's rendering of the ancient records, began to regard the youth as promising, after a peculiar incident. Simon, assuming that was what he was called as a boy, brought home a cat. However his was not quite the "he followed me home" story. Alone by himself in the desert the boy had encountered a leopard. He had never seen anything like this before. He put a rope around the cat's neck, and brought it to the hermit and monks. Now this astonished everyone: you see, this cat was not just big, but wild. Yet, according to the story, the cat was quite tame with the boy. And this was a hopeful sign for Simon grew up and constructed a pillar for himself to sit on, and acquired in time a reputation for holiness also.

Alban Butler died May 15, 1773. 

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