Tuesday, October 7, 2014

St Spyridon Orthodox Church, Corfu

Greeks are well known for their strong religious ties with Christianity from ancient times and Corfu is no exception to this rule. The island is best known for Saint Spiridon, the patron saint of the island, who's relics are miraculously still preserved and thousands are the worshipers who come every year for his healing powers.
Patron of the island, but originally from Cyprus, Saint Spiridon, after whom the church is named is thought to have saved the island four times from grave dangers and has so become the most important saint of the island. The architecture of the church is typical of the Venetian architecture that dominates all over the Old Town of Corfu.



The exterior of the church is typical of the Venetian architecture and its bell tower is the highest point in the town ensuring it can be seen for miles and when approaching by sea. The bell tower built in 1620 is plain and squarely profiled in an Italian style which resembles the Greek Church St. Giorgio’s dei Greci bell tower in Venice but with a red dome. Underneath the bell there is a clock with Latin numbers and gold pointers.
The top of the church is divided into 17 parts with golden frames painted by the artist, Panagiotis Doxaras, in 1727. However due to humidity these initial paintings were destroyed and in 1852 the top of the church was restored by the artist Nikolaos Aspiotis.
Saint Spyridon, who is considered the keeper of Corfu and his relics can be found in the church behind the Alter, housed in a shrine made in Vienna in 1867. His relics are carried around the town of Corfu four times a year to celebrate his miracles (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, August 11th, first Sunday of November).



Saint Spyridon was born in 270 A.D. in Assia, a village in Cyprus and was a shepherd who married and had a daughter. After his wife’s death, his daughter entered a convent and he vowed to lead a monastic life. He studied and gained wisdom and grace in the religious virtues and participated in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325) countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He served as  Bishop of Trimythous, a district of Larnaca, Cyprus, until he died in 348 A.D. When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was disinterred and taken to Constantinople but his remains were found intact with a sprig of Basil. After Constantinople fell in 1453, his relics were moved to Corfu by the priest Grigorios Polyefktos.
It is believed Saint Spyridon saved Corfu four times from dangers, in 1629 & 1673 he saved the islanders from plague, in 1533 he saved the island from famine and in 1716 he saved it from the Ottoman attack, which is why he is the most important and revered of saints on the Ionian Island and many men and boys are named after him.

2 comments:

  1. Demetris, Christ is Risen. I'm an Orthodox Christian living in Ireland, visiting Corfu for a holiday in August. I found your in information about St Spyridon very useful and interesting. As a pilgrim to both the Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex,and also a few times to Aghion Oros (Mt Athos) I was wondering do you know if there is a functioning Orthodox monastic community in Corfu to visit whilst I am there. Also any other ideas about places to visit in Corfu from an Orthodox spirituality point of view. It's very easy to only find tourist related material online. I do not know if you'll see this message, but if you do, your advise would be welcome. John Gabriel Corcoran...Listowel, Co Kerry, Ireland ..

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  2. Dear John, He is Risen Indeed. Thank you for your message. Unfortunately, I do not know a lot about the monastic communities in Corfu. However, I do know that there are many, especially outside the capital city of Corfu. I think it would be best to go to St Spyridon, or speak to a priest from the Metropolis and they will be able to tell you more and direct you to the right people. Hope this information helps. All the best. Dimitris

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