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Saint Spyridon

The Thaumaturgist (Miracle-worker)
(Ο Θαυματουργός)
Born 270, Askia, Cyprus
Died 348, Trimythous, Cyprus
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism
Major shrine Corfu
Feast December 12 (East), December 14 (West)
Attributes Episcopal insignia, potsherd, basil
Patronage potters, Corfu


O most blessed hierarch Spyridon, thou great Saint of Christ and glorious wonder-worker! Standing in heaven before the throne of God with choirs of Angels, look down with a compassionate eye upon the people gathered here (N.___) and asking thy powerful help. Entreat the merciful kindness of God Who loveth mankind, that He judge us not according to our iniquities, but rather act towards us according to His mercy... [1]

Saint Spyridon (Greek Ἃγιος Σπυρίδων c. 270-348) is a saint honoured in both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions.

Spyridon was born in Askia in Cyprus. He worked as a shepherd and was known for his great piety. He married and had one daughter, Irene. Upon the death of his wife, Spyridon entered a monastery, and their daughter, a convent.

Spyridon eventually became the Bishop of Trimythous, near Paphos and a was a vocal opponent of Arianism. He reportedly converted a pagan philosopher to Christianity by using a potsherd to illustrate how one entity could be composed of three unique entities (fire, water and clay; a metaphor for the Christian Trinity). The shard is said to have miraculously begun streaming water and producing a small flame as soon as Spyridon finished speaking.

Spyridon took part in the Council of Nicaea (325), but fell into disfavor during the persecutions of the emperor Maximinus.

When the Arabs took Cyprus, Spyridon's body was disinterred for removal to Constantinople. The body was allegedly uncorrupted, and contained a sprig of basil, the "royal plant," — taken as a sign of his confirmation as a saint.

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.

Spyridon is the patron saint of potters (from the purported miracle of the potsherd) and the island of Corfu where he is caled: "Αγιος Σπυρίδων ο πολιούχος" translated as "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.

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 the 8th of July 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 the 19th of July 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. Venice on the victorious outcome of the battle honoured Schulenmburg and the Corfiots for successfuly defending the island.

Recognizing St. Spyridon's role in the defence of the island Venice legislated the establishment of the litany of St Spyridon on the 11th of August as a commemoration of the event. His feast is celebrated on December 12 in the East and December 14 in the West. The common Greek name Spiros or Spyros (Σπύρος) is a derivative of "Spyridon."


St. Spyridon and other religious traditions on Corfu

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