The Sacred pilgrimage Temple of the protector of Corfu, Agios Spyridon, is one of the largest pilgrimages in Greece, due to the shrine of the miraculous saint who is hoarded in the temple.
The church was built in 1589 in the form Eptanisiaki Basilikis, from the Corfu family Voulgaris. Although the exterior of the decor is very austere, the interior of the church is rich in decoration, with particularly an impressive temple of 1864 of Parian marble. The icons of the temple are works of the Corfu painter Spyros Prosalentis. It is worth to notice the famous “Sky” the roof of the temple, which is divided into 17 parts with gold frames, originally painted by the great Corfu painter, Panagiotis Doxara in 1727.
Among the many tributes that Saint Spiridona receives each year, there are two large candles which were dedicated in 1716, the year that the inhabitants were saved by the Turks, with his help.
The impressive bell with red dome, visible from every point of the historic center of Corfu, is located on the east side of the church and has a watch similar to that of St. George of the Greeks in Venice.
The shrine and the holy relics of Saint Spyridona
The coffin, in which was placed the holy relics of Saint Spyridona, was built in Vienna in 1867.
Saint Spyridona, the humble bishop of the province Trimuthountos of Cyprus, one of the leading prelates of the First Ecumenical Council, slept in 358 AD.
The imperishable relic of the saint remained in Cyprus for about three hundred years after his death, and about the end of the 7th century AD moved to Istanbul because of the Arab raids against Cyprus. In 1456, three years after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, the priest Gregory Polyeuktos carried the sacred relics of the saint with the relics of Saint Theodora the Empress (which is located in the Cathedral of Panagia Spileotissa of Corfu) in Epirus and from there to Corfu.
The Sacred Relic belonged to a family of priests of Corfu for centuries, the descendants of which in 1925 will give it definitely to the ecclesiastical authority of the island.
Of particular interest is the history of the place of residence of the saint. The first installation of the relics of the transport from Istanbul to Corfu was the church of Saint Athanasius. In 1528 the remains will be transferred to the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael in Campielo. In 1528 the family Voulgaris, in honor of the saint, builds his own church at San Rocco. In 1537 the Turks besieged Corfu and the family Voulgaris forced, for safety, to carry the relics in the church to Saints Anargiroi in Old Fort and after the siege returned to San Rocco. The expansion of the walls of the fortress in 1577 and provides for the demolition of the church and so the relic of the Saint is transferred to the church of St. Nicholas in the Foreign Garitsa.
The owners of the relics of St. Spyridon will decide to build a new church, the Inauguration of which will take place in 1589 whereas the completion will be around 1594.In this temple the relic of the Saint remains until today.
In 1967 the Church of Saint Spyridona of Corfu was officially recognized as a legal entity under public law by presidential decree under the name “Holy Pilgrimage of Saint Spiridona of Corfu”.
The memory of Saint Spyridona is celebrated on December 12. It is wonderful the way in which the providence of God, in the three islands of the Ionian Islands (Corfu, Chefalonia, Zante), which was for centuries were occupied by the Latin, the three protector saint of the islands, retain their relics imperishable, as evidence of God in primacy of Orthodoxy.
The Saint and the city
The history of Corfu is deeply connected with Saint Spyridona. Some of his miracles, as the salvation of the inhabitants of the plague, the removal of the Turks besieging the island in 1716, the exemption of the island from the plague epidemic in 1629 and 1673, proved to be a lifeline for the island.
The people of Corfu honor the patron majestically with processions, many times during the year, with participation of 20 bands.
Specifically, the relic of the saint stands in procession around five times a year:
– On Palm Sunday, to protect the island from the plague that had beaten all over Europe in 1629.
– On Saturday, for the miracle of the saint, when the island escaped from a great pestilence.
– On August 11, to commemorate the salvation of Corfu from the raid-Turkish siege in 1716.
– On the first Sunday in November for rescuing residents from the second plague in 1673.
– On December 12th, when the memory of Saint Spyridona is celebrated (placed upright in the relic “door” of the church).
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