Dionysius of Zakyanthos
Saint Dionysius of Zakynthos is a profound figure of the Greek Orthodox Church. He followed a humble and spiritual path in life that later saw the recognition of his sainthood and the miraculous preservation of his body.
LifeSaint Dionysius was born in 1547 to a wealthy family who provided him with theological education and the knowledge of several foreign languages that enhanced his distinguished intellect and spirituality.
After the death of his parents, at the age of 20, he decided to devote his life to God, become a monk and lead an ascetic life. In 1560 he was ordained priest with the name Daniel. His charitable work and generous spirit spread his fame to the entire island of Zakynthos. In 1577 he assumed the Episcope of the island of Aegina and became Archbishop Dionysius of Aegina and Poros. During his service, he is said to have performed many miracles as well as help the poor. However, after a year as Archbishop, a position of great responsibilities and popularity he felt the need to return to the ascetic and peaceful life of an abbot at a monastery.
On December 17, 1622 he “fell asleep” at the Monastery of Anafonitria and his relics were later transferred at the Holy Monastery of Strofades and Saint Dionysius. His sainthood was proclaimed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1703.
Despite being officially proclaimed a saint in 1703, to the people of Zakynthos he had already been perceived as saint for many years. Dionysius was also called the “Saint of Forgiveness” – his faith was so great that not only did he forgive the man who killed his beloved brother, he also hid him in the monastery from persecutors. As the story goes, the murderer was later said to have found great faith and redemption, later becoming a monk at the same monastery with St. Dionysius.
St. Dionysius Church
The Church which was built in 1948 is dedicated to the patron saint of Zakynthos, St. Dionysius. In 1953, after a destructive earthquake hit the island, the church was among the three buildings that remained intact, a symbolic occurrence for the local people. The bell tower of the church is the highest of the region and is quickly visible as one enters the port of the island. The interior of the Church is of impressive beauty, with frescos and icons contributed by the acclaimed painter Doxaras.
The remains of St. Dionysius have been placed in a silver sculptured “Larnaca” (entombment) designed by Reverend Father Nikolaos Kantounis. In 1829, George Diamantis Bafas engraved the Larnaca with the depiction of the Dormition of the Saint.
Celebrations in his memory
Saint Dionysius’ memory is celebrated twice a year with religious feasts that each last for three days and nights. On August 24, a celebration is held in remembrance of the transfer of his holy relics from the Monastery of Anafonitria to the St. Dionysius Church (1717). His Dormition is commemorated on December 17.
St. Dionysius is an important religious figure for the people of Zakynthos and the Church devoted to his memory is a major attraction for visitors. During the three-day celebrations people gather from all over Greece to honor the saint. The festivities come to a climax with the procession of the holy relics around the city of Zakynthos.
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