Saint Spyridon , Corfu
The Miracle of Palm Sunday
In 1630, the island was saved from a deadly plague with Saint Spyridon's miraculous deliverance. The disease started in October, 1629. It was transmitted by an Italian ship which arrived in Corfu. The disease smitted Italy and all the Ionian Island. At Christmas 1629 four people died in Corfu and, as the time went by, more and more people were infected with the deadly disease. Even though austere measures were taken by the health offices, the situation was getting worse and worse. People turned to Saint Spyridon who was their penultimate hope. Saint Spyridon listened to all the prayers and the requests made. Some days before Easter, many of the sick dreamed of Saint Spyrdon blessing them and making them feel better. At the same time the night sentinels observed a different light on the top of the Saint's belfry. By Palm Sunday, the epidemic was over and this was ascribed to the miraculous intervention of Saint Spyridon. From that day, every year on Palm Sunday there is a litany in remembrance of this miracle. This litany is the biggest as far as the duration is concerned and its route covers the perimeter of Corfu town.
The Holy Saturday Litany
This litany is the oldest of all in Corfu. It commemorates the relief from the famine which hit the island some time before the Easter of 1553. Even though the date of the miracle is not exactly clear, it is believed that it happened then because of the decision of building the public wheat storage (L.S. Vrokinis, "Works", v.B. Corfu, 1973, p.291). This litany was validated by the General Governor (Provleptis) Antonios Loredanos in 24th of April 1753.
This was also approved by the Venetian Senate in the 1st of June 1753. During this litany, there is also the Orthdox ritual of carrying the "Epitaph", a gilt bier representing the body of Jesus Christ in the grave. In the night, the "Epitaph" is carried around inside the church accompanied by the brass old band of Corfu " Saint Spyridon". During the litany of Holy Saturday, his relic is in front of the "Epitaph". The canopy is not held over the relic but over the Epitaph.
This custom dates back to the Venetian occupation of Corfu, when the Orthodox church went through many difficulties. In 1574, when the Venetian Senate prohibited the Greek Orthodox litanies to take place when they had their own. They also forced the Greek clergy to participate in those litanies. In order not to stop this cultural tradition, the Orthdox Corfiots decided to do their own litany every Holy Saturday instead of the Holy Friday. This tradition was held during the Venetian Occupation.
In 1799, the Orthdox church regained their rights and they kept this tradition of the Epitaph of Saint Spyridon to take place every Holy Saturday morning. (S. K. Papageorgiou, "History of Corfiot Chruch", Corfu 1920, p.59, Athanasios X. Tsitsas Prot. "Holy spyridon" Corfu 1967, p. 54).
After the litany is finished (it starts around 9 o' clock and finishes around 10.30 a.m.), the holy relic is exposed in front of the vault for four days in order to be worshipped. On Tuesdays afternoon (Bright Week) the holy relic returns to its sacred place ("basmata").
The Litany of the First Sunday of NovemberThe first Sunday of November ("Protokiriako") is celebrated the miraculous intercession of the Saint in saving Corfu from deadly plague which had hit for the second time the island in 1673.
It is not clear when did it start and how long it lasted. However, we know that this tremendous epidemic stopped abruptly in the end of October 1673. Then, according to testimonies, for three nights a light was seen by the local inhabitants on the bell-tower of his Church and the figure of Saint Spyridon, carrying a cross in one hand, appeared driving away the disease which looked like a black ghost and was trying to escape from the Saint's power.
The Venetian Governor, at request of the Corfiots, decided on the 29th of October 1673 that the litany would be held in order to celebrate the miracle. The authorities, the clergy but also the people were sure that Saint Spyridon was the one who saved them!
The litany of the 11th of August
Saint's deliverance of the island from the Turkish siege during July and August 1716 proves not only the deep faith that Corfiots had in Saint Spyridon but also his constant presence. In the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire and the Despotate of Epirus were in terrible conditions. The Venetians tried with more peaceful and diplomatic means to take over the island of Corfu (1314 and so on). When they failed, they used weapons and attacked Acropolis hoisting eventually the Venetian flag on the 20th of March 1386 in the corfiot Fortress.
SIEGE OF 1716Turks also wanted to expand to the West and their wishes to conquer the Ionian Islands never stopped existing. In the beginning of the 18th century, among others, the Venetians had also the control of corfu and in order to prevent Turks from taking the island, they sent as the leader of defense, the marshal John Matthias Shulenbourg. Turks had planned to attack the island already since 1431 and they tried many times to take it under their control.
A new turkish landing took place on the 8th of July 1716 and they managed to conquer firstly the forts of Mantouki and Garitsa and then those of "Avramis" and "Sotiros". They also conquered little by little the New Fortress. The turkish attacks were going on and on for about a month till the 8th of August.
At that time, the faithful Christians were constantly praying to God, through Saint Spyridon to intervene and save the island.
And so it happened. On the 9th of August 1716, a huge storm broke out. Turks were deluged with terror and a lot of people started to say that they saw Saint Spyridon as a monk getting out of his church and threatening the Muslims who were ready to attack. This made them even more afraid.
As a result, the rapid storm and the fear from the irresistible monk who was threatening them, made the Turks to leave immediately. After all, the military duties of Turkey in general made their leaving of Corfu more necessary.
The Turkish departure on the 11th of August was correctly attributed to the miraculous intervention of Saint Spyridon. It is worth mentioning that this siege did not harm any people's live.
The administration of Venice honored General Schulenburg, the Corfiots for the defend of the island and at the same time, in memory of the marvelous event of Saint's intervention, they established by law the annual litany of Saint Spyridon's relic on the 11th of August.