Saturday, 12 December 2009

Happy Saint Spyridon's day!

The 12th of December is the day when our patron saint, Saint Spyridon is being commemorated. In that day many people named Spyros and Spyridoula celebrate their nameday and believe me, they are not few! A celebrational service is held in Saint Spyridon church in Corfu Town, attended by a lot of people.


But let me show you a short biography of our saint, taken from Wikipedia:

"Spyridon of Trimythous the Wonderworker (Greek: Σπυρίδων ca. 270-348) was a 4th centurybishop who was present at the First Ecumenical Council. He is also commonly referred to in Corfu as Keeper of the City (Greek: ο πολιούχος), since he is also the patron saint of that island (this is where his relics are located and venerated). He is commemorated by the church on December 12.
Spyridon was born in the village of Ashia (askia - "without shade"), Cyprus (270 AD) and died in Trimythous, Cyprus (348 AD). He was a peasant farmer and shepherd and had no education. Spyridon was married and had a daughter, Irene. After his wife died, he and his daughter both entered into monasticism. He later became the Bishop of Trimythous (during the reign of Constantine the Great) and continued in piety for which he was greatly known.
When the Arabs took Cyprus, Spyridon's body was disinterred and taken to Constantinople. The relics were found to be incorrupt, and contained a sprig of basil, the "royal plant," both of which were taken as a sign of divine confirmation of his sanctity.
When, in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Turks, Spyridon's relics were removed again; this time, to the island of Corfu by a Corfiote monk called Kalohairetis (Καλοχαιρέτης), where they remain to this day.
The relics are taken in procession every Palm Sunday and on other special occasions, for veneration by the faithful. All Philharmonics of Corfu, including the Philharmonic Society of Corfu take part in these ceremonial events. The relic of his right hand is now located in Rome.
Spyridon is the patron saint of potters (from the purported miracle of the potsherd) and the island of Corfu where he is called: "Αγιος Σπυρίδων ο πολιούχος", "Saint Spyridon, the Keeper of the City" for the miracle of expelling the plague (πανώλη) from the island.
It is believed by the faithful that the plague, on its way out of the island, scratched one of the fortification stones of the old citadel (Palaio Frourio) to indicate its fury for being expelled. This scratch is shown to visitors to this day.
Icon showing Saint Spyridon (center, front) silencing Arius (right, with hands over his mouth) during the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325.
St. Spyridon is also believed to have saved the island at the second great siege of Corfu which took place in 1716. At that time the Turkish army and naval force led by the great Sultan Achmet III appeared in Butrinto opposite Corfu.
On July 8 the Turkish fleet carrying 33,000 men sailed to Corfu from Butrinto and established a beachhead in Ipsos. The same day the Venetian fleet encountered the Turkish fleet off the channel of Corfu and defeated it in the ensuing naval battle. On July 19 the Turkish army reached the hills of the town and laid siege to the city. After repeated failed attempts and heavy fighting, the Turks were forced to raise the siege which had lasted 22 days.
There were also rumours spreading among the Turks that some of their soldiers saw St. Spyridon as a monk threatening them with a lit torch and that helped increase their panic. This victory over the Turks, therefore, was attributed not only to the leadership of Count Schulenburg who commanded the stubborn defence of the island against the Turks but also to the miraculous intervention of St. Spyridon.
After the victorious outcome of the battle, Venice honoured Schulenburg and the Corfiotes for successfully defending the island. The great composer Vivaldi was commissioned to write an opera, Juditha triumphans, in celebration of the victory.
Recognizing St. Spyridon's role in the defence of the island, Venice legislated the annual "Litany of St. Spyridon" on August 11 as a commemoration of the event. His feast day is celebrated in the East on the Saturday before Great Lent (known as "Cheesefare Saturday") and December 12. For those Eastern Churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, December 12 falls on December 25 of the modern Gregorian Calendar. In the West he is commemorated on December 14.
St. Spyridon is also the patron saint of the Tolstoy family. Andrei Tolstoy (fl. 15th century) chose St. Spyridon as the family's saint and he remains so in both branches to this day. The Grand Prince of Muscovy Basil II (1425-1462) apparently gave a gold cross containing relics of the saint to Andrei. This reliquary survives to this day and is held by the senior member of the Tolstoy family, now Nikolai Tolstoy."

A three-day long worship is held from December 11 to December 13. People from all over Corfu and Greece come to the Saint Spyridon church to pray.

Our patron saint is without doubt very significant for all Corfiots. He has helped a lot of sick people and those in need of help, courage or forgiveness. We are so lucky that we have Him!

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