St Spyridon Church (video link)
Feast Day, December 12.
Saint Spiridon lived during the time of king Constantine the Great and his son Constantius.
This God-bearing Father of the Church, the great defender of Corfu and the boast of all the Orthodox, had Cyprus as his homeland. He was simple in manner and humble of heart, and was a shepherd of sheep. When he was joined to a wife, he begat of her a daughter whom they named Irene. After his wife’s departure from this life, he was appointed Bishop of Trimythus, and thus he became also a shepherd of rational sheep. When the First Ecumenical Council was assembled in Nicaea, he also was present, and by means of his most simple words stopped the mouths of the Arians who were wise in their own conceit. By the divine grace which dwelt in him, he wrought such great wonders that he received the surname ‘Wonderworker.” So it is that, having tended his flock piously and in a manner pleasing to God, he reposed in the Lord about the year 350, leaving to his country his sacred relics as a consolation and source of healing for the faithful.
About the middle of the seventh century, because of the incursions made by the barbarians at that time, his sacred relics were taken to Constantinople, where they remained, being honoured by the emperors themselves. But before the fall of Constantinople, which took place on May 29, 1453, a certain priest named George Kalokhairetes, the parish priest of the church where the Saint’s sacred relics, as well as those of Saint Theodora the Empress, were kept, took them away on account of the impending peril. Travelling by way of Serbia, he came as far as Arta in Epirus, a region in Western Greece opposite to the isle of Corfu. From there, while the misfortunes of the Christian people were increasing with every day, he passed over to Corfu about the year 1460. The relics of Saint Theodora were given to the people of Corfu; but those of Saint Spyridon remain to this day, according to the rights of inheritance, the most precious treasure of the priest’s own descendants, and they continue to be a staff for the faithful in Orthodoxy, and a supernatural wonder for those that behold him; for even after the passage of 1,500 years, they have remained incorrupt, and even the flexibility of his flesh has been preserved. Truly wondrous is God in His Saints! (Ps. 67:3 5)
Apolytikion in the First Tone
O Father, God-bearer, Spyridon, you were proven a champion and Wonder Worker of the First Ecumenical Council. You spoke to the girl in the grave and turned the serpent to gold. And, when chanting your prayers, most sacred One, angels ministered with you. Glory to Him who glorified you; glory to Him who crowned you; glory to Him who, through you, works healing for all.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Wounded by your love for Christ, O holy One, your mind given wings by the radiance of the Spirit, you put the practice of theory into deeds, becoming a sacred altar, O Chosen by God, and praying for the divine illumination of all.
(St Spyridin basilica from Corfu)
MIRACLEs In CORFU Island
For over a 100 years after his death, sweet-scented exhalations were perceived emanating from his tomb, until the local churchmen dug it up and found his body intact. The holy remains were kept in Cyprus for over 300 years. In the second half of the 17th century the Saint’s body was carried to Constantinople, until the fall of the City to the Turks in 1453. Shortly after the Turkish conquest, the priest George Kalochairetis carried off the body of the Saint, together with that of Saint Theodora and he brought them to Corfu in 1456. Since that year St. Spyridon has never ceased to be the object of devout veneration by the faithful.
Old Fortress in Corfu
Historical sources that certify the authenticity of the following event on the expulsion of the papal forces from the island, include the historical notes given by a great saint of our Church, St. Athanasius of Paros. We should all reflect upon the message of the following event.
THE GREAT MIRACLE
In 1716 the Turks had the island of Corfu under a tight siege. They had 50,000 troops and a good number of ships surrounding the island, cutting its lifeline from land and sea.
The barbarian armies had been concentrated at the far walls of the city. Pizani, a general of the forces of the Venetian Republic, was anxiously anticipating the oncoming enemy attack (since Corfu and the nearby islands were occupied by Italy at the time).
At daybreak on August 11, 1716, St. Spyridon, the patron Saint of the island, appeared in front of the enemy lines holding a glistening sword in his right hand. His austere and grandiose appearance horrified the aggressors who began to recede. The Agarenes, panic-stricken by the most awesome presence and fearless attack of the Saint, abandoned weapons, machinery and animals, running for their lives.
This great miracle became known throughout the island. The Turks had left behind 120 cannons, a large number of weapons, ammunition, animals and food.
After this powerful, surprising and most obvious miracle, the Venetian ruler Andrew Pizani, who was a Papist, wanted to erect a Papist altar inside the Orthodox Church of St. Spyridon (forever pushing for this was also the Papist Cardinal of the island). However, St. Spyridon appeared to Pizani in a dream saying: “Why are you bothering me? The altar of your faith is unacceptable in my Temple!” Naturally, Pizani reported this to the Papist Cardinal who answered that it was nothing but an evil fantasy of the devil who wanted to nullify the noble deed. After this, Pizani was much encouraged, so he ordered the necessary materials to commence construction of the altar. The materials were piled up outside of the temple of St. Spyridon. When the Orthodox priests of the temple and the Greek leaders of the island realised what was going on, they were greatly grieved. They asked to meet with Pizani to ask him to put a stop to this. Pizani’s response was quite disheartening. He said quite bluntly, “As a ruler I will do whatever I please!” At that moment, the Orthodox community of the island turned their eyes to their Saint, beseeching him to put a stop to this abomination.
(Holy Relics of St Spyridon in the Church of St Spyridon from Corfu)
That same night, St. Spyridon appeared to Pizani as a monk and told him, “I told you not to bother me. If you dare to go through with your decision, you will surely regret it, but by then it will be too late.”
The next morning, Pizani reported all this to the Papist Cardinal who now accused him of being not only faithless but also of being “yellow”. Again, after this, the ruler mustered up enough courage to order the construction of the altar.
The Papists of the island were celebrating their triumph while the Orthodox were deeply grieved. Their grief could not be comforted and with tears they begged for the Saint’s intervention to save them from the Papist abomination.
The Saint heard their prayers and intervened dynamically.
That evening, a terrible storm broke out, unleashing a barrage of thunderbolts on Fort Castelli, Pizani’s base and his ammunition barracks. The entire fort ended up in a holocaust. 900 Papist soldiers and civilians were instantly killed from the explosion, but not a single Orthodox was harmed (as they were not allowed inside the fort after dark). Pizani was found dead with his neck wedged between two wooden beams. The body of the Papist Cardinal was found thrown a great distance from the fort.
But the most incredible fact was that the same night and at the same hour, another thunderbolt struck in Venice, targeting the compound of Pizani, burning his portrait that hung on the wall. Strangely enough, nothing else was damaged. Also, the guard of the ammunition barracks saw the Saint draw near him with a lit torch. He was carried by the Saint near the church of the Crucified without a single scratch.
Many are the miracles of St. Spyridon to our dearest Orthodoxy. It seems that the Saint does not share the enthusiasm of certain Ecumenist clerics. Because we do not wish to draw attention to specific names at this point, we would simply like to mention that very recently, an important Orthodox hierarch in Corfu had decided to go and meet with Latin Papists outside the island, himself being a philo-Papist. However, he never made it back to the island as he suddenly dropped dead.
It seems that the Saint does not want those clerics who make openings to the Latins back in his island …