Our Patron Saint
Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker (Ο Θαυματουργός)
Feast Day: December 12th
Apolytikion Hymn, 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 to all.
Kontakion Hymn, 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.
The history of the island is closely associated with St. Spyridon, the patron Saint of Corfu, who was a Cypriot bishop born in 270 AD. He took part in the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea (325 AD), where he gave his miraculous testimony in the disputed doctrine of the Holy Trinity. During the last years of his life he performed a great number of miracles, which was the reason why people considered him a Saint before his death.
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.
There are four annual processions taking place in Corfu in remembrance of four miracles wrought by the Saint. These were first established during the period of Venetian rule and are still held every year.
The great Palm Sunday procession commemorates the miraculous deliverance of the island from a deadly plague and comes second in order of antiquity. In 1629 Corfu was stricken by the plague. The inhabitants of the island gathered in despair in St. Spyridon’s church and prayed to the Saint for salvation. From that day the number of deaths was reduced. At the same time a light, like that of a small lamp, was observed by the night sentinels of the Old Fortress. By Palm Sunday the epidemic was over and this was ascribed to the miraculous interception of the Saint.
The Easter Saturday procession, first held in the second half of the 16th century, commemorates the relief of the island from famine and is the oldest of the four. It is combined with the Orthodox ritual of carrying the ‘Epitaphios’, a gilt bier representing the body of Jesus Christ being borne to the grave. This custom dates back to 1574, when the Venetian Senate prohibited the Greek Orthodox procession of the ‘Epitaphios’ taking place on Good Friday. That’s why, the procession was moved from Good Friday to Easter Saturday, exclusively for the church of St. Spyridon. After the procession the Saint’s body is exposed for three days for general worship. The story of the procession dates back to the middle of the 16th century. According to the legend the inhabitants were suffering from famine. Unexpectedly on Easter Saturday, ships loaded with flour sailed into Corfu harbor. They were sailing past the island and had been diverted by St. Spyridon, who appeared in one of the captain’s dreams and told him to change their course and sail at once to Corfu because the population was starving.
The third procession is held in 11th of August in remembrance of the Saint’s deliverance of the island from the Turkish siege in 1716. The legend of the Saint mentions that St. Spyridon appeared to the enemy holding a flashing sword and pursuing them. After the procession the Saint’s body is exposed for general worship for three days and two nights. The procession was first held in 1717.
The last of the processions of St. Spyridon is that on the first Sunday in November in commemoration of the miraculous interception of the saint in saving Corfu from a deadly plague. The plague was first identified in the suburbs and soon spread all over the town. Then suddenly at the end of October it stopped after bringing death to thousands. For three nights a light was seen in the bell-tower of St. Spyridon’s church and the figure of the Saint appeared carrying a cross driving the plague away. At the request of the people of Corfu, the Venetian Governor allowed the procession to be held every year on the first Sunday in November.
The silk slippers which clothe the feet of the relics of St. Spyridon, the “Walking Saint,” wear out each year and are replaced on his feast day. One of these such slippers was presented to St. Spyridon Church on December 12, 1954. The slipper was given to parishioner Alexander Demessianos in Greece as a gift to the Newport church. Today the slipper is still treasured in the Church of St. Spyridon.
As the Patron Saint of our Newport Greek Orthodox Church, Saint Spyridon’s icon adorns our iconostasis (εικονοστάσι), on the second panel to the left of the altar. We are blessed to have one of Saint Spyridon’s slippers on display in a glass case in our church, and each Sunday the Apolytikion of Saint Spyridon is sung during liturgy.
On December 12th, our parish celebrates the feast day of Saint Spyridon and each year around this time the Metropolitan joins us for Liturgy and fellowship during a coffee hour in special recognition of our Patron Saint.