Saint Spyridon church in Corfu

The Church of Saint Spyridon in Corfu: The church of Saint Spyridon was initially built in Sarocco square, Corfu Town. However, in 1590 it was erected in its present location. The architecture of the church is typical of the Venetian architecture that dominates all over the Old Town of Corfu. Its bell tower is the highest spot of the town and this is the first thing that you see as the ferry approaches the island. The locals have deep faith in Saint Spyridon, who is considered the keeper of Corfu.

According to legends, he has saved the island four times from the Ottoman invasion, one of the reasons that this church is the most important religious monument of Corfu. Spyridon, or else Spyros, is a very common name on the island and the locals actually refer to their saint protector when they want to swear on their word of honor about something. Inside the church, which is located just behind Liston, there are the remains of the saint. According to the local customs, his remains are carried around the town of Corfu in a very peaceful litany four times a year to celebrate his miracles (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, August 11th, first Sunday of November). The litanies are accompanied by the local bands and they remain a strong tradition on Corfu.

Saint Spyridon was born in 270 A.D. in Assia, a village in Cyprus. When he was young, he was a poor and humble shepherd. He later married and had a daughter. After his wife's death, his daughter entered a convent and himself too led a monastic life, studied a lot and gained wisdom and grace in the religious virtues. He performed a great number of miracles which was the main reason why they considered him a saint even before his death. Saint Spyridon also participated in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He also served as a Bishop of Trimythous, a district of Larnaca Cyprus, until he died in 348 A.D.

When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was disinterred to be taken to Constantinople. However, his relics were found incorrupt and a sprig of basil would emit from the grave. After Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, his relics were again moved to Corfu, where they remain till today. It is said that Saint Spyridon has saved the island four times from dangers: in 1533 he saved the island from famine, in 1629 he released the islanders from the plague, in 1716 he saved Corfu from the Ottoman attack and in 1673 he again saved the locals from the plague. That is why the Corfiots respect their keeper so much and think of him as their protector. His memory is celebrated on December 12th.

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