How to View the Chest of Saint Simeon in Zadar, Croatia

Have you ever attended a meeting, conference, or event where the organizer requested participants to share something intriguing about themselves with the group? As you sit there, wracking your brain for something, anything interesting to contribute, you may find yourself coming up short. However, after our visit to the chest of Saint Simeon, we finally have a unique story to share.

During our recent tour of Zadar, Harry and I encountered a travel experience that will undoubtedly become our go-to conversation starter for years to come. In fact, I’m certain that this anecdote will be a highlight at cocktail parties and social gatherings. Following our exploration of the Croatian city of Zadar, we can proudly declare that we were just one degree of separation away from Jesus Christ!

Viewing Saint Simeon

The remains of Saint Simeon are located over the main altar in the Church of Saint Simeon in Zadar, Croatia.

Zadar has always been one of our favorite cities in Croatia. As a university town, it is small, diverse, and somewhat eccentric. Despite its size, there’s a ton of history and landmarks to tour and explore. During our last visit to the city, we had a unique travel experience that was both culturally and spiritually significant.

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We arrived in Zadar on our Adriatic cruise tour on a pretty, fall afternoon. We were guided to many of the city’s noteworthy hotspots by our local guide.

Throughout the tour, our guide kept saying that he had a special surprise for us if the timing worked out. Always looking for a good surprise, we were curious to find out what it might be.

An old Roman column welcomes visitors outside the Church of Saint Simeon in Zadar, Croatia.

If we consider the theory of Six Degrees of Separation, we can all just say that we were one step away from meeting Jesus.

As the sun fell, we arrived in front of the Church of Saint Simeon. We were instructed to enter in respectful silence and follow behind our guide up to the altar. Afterward, we’d discuss the importance of our visit to the square.

The simple and basic main altar in the Church of Saint Simeon holds one of the most priceless possessions in all of Catholicism.

The Chest of Saint Simeon

As we made our way up to the altar in a quiet procession, we came upon the sarcophagus with its two red velvet curtains drawn open. Inside were the 2,000-year-old mummified remains of St. Simeon.

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Once a year, on the patron’s day of October 8th, the chest is opened and the Saint is on display for only one week. The sarcophagus is noted to be one of the finest from medieval Europe.

The opulent silver chest was made in 1380 by one of the most skilled goldsmiths at the time. The engravings feature the legends and miracles surrounding St. Simeon. Furthermore, this sarcophagus is also protected by UNESCO.

The relics of St. Simeon are very important to the people of Zadar. St. Simeon is the patron saint of the city.

What makes visiting St. Simeon so special are the legends of his past. The most significant story was that St. Simeon was visited by the Holy Spirit who told him he would not die until he had seen the Lord Jesus Christ. Later, St. Simeon would be the one to greet Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in the temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses forty days after his birth.

Saint Simeon the God-Receiver

Saint Simeon or Simeon the God-Receiver or Simeon the Righteous in Christian tradition, is mentioned in the Bible in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 25-35. According to the narrative, Simeon was a devout and righteous man living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ birth. Here’s what he’s famous for:

  • Meeting Jesus at the Temple: Simeon was promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. When Jesus was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem for his presentation according to Jewish custom, Simeon was led by the Spirit to meet Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus. Recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, declaring him to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”
  • Prophecy about Jesus: Simeon’s encounter with Jesus led him to deliver a prophetic message to Mary, predicting both the salvation that Jesus would bring and the suffering that Mary herself would endure as his mother. This prophecy is known as the “Nunc Dimittis” or the “Song of Simeon,” and it is often recited or sung in Christian liturgy.
  • Recognition as a Righteous Man: Simeon is revered in Christian tradition as a righteous and devout man who faithfully awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises. His encounter with Jesus at the Temple is seen as a significant event in the early life of Jesus and is commemorated in the Christian feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas.

Saint Simeon’s encounter with the infant Jesus is a pivotal moment in the Gospel narrative, highlighting Jesus’ identity as the long-awaited Messiah and bringing joy and affirmation to those who awaited his coming.

Six Degrees of Separation

After visiting the church and viewing St. Simeon, our group gathered in the square to reflect on standing before one of the world’s favorite saints. A noteworthy scientist, also a guest on our cruise, then made the most brilliant observation! He exclaimed, “If we consider the theory of Six Degrees of Separation, we can all just say that we were one step away from meeting the Holy Family.”

Simeon with Jesus in his arms. Oil of Alekséi Yegórov. 1830-40.

Zadar was one of the overnight stops on our Adriatic cruise with eWaterways. Besides visiting the Church of St. Simeon, guests have the opportunity to explore many picturesque sights, both old and new. Inspired to learn more? Visit eWaterways.com.

Join us in our vlog below as we explore all the hotspots cruising aboard the Adriatic Queen.

Click on this link to learn more about St. Simeon.

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