Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Translation of the Sacred Relic of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos

On the twenty-fourth of this month [August], we commemorate the Translation of the revered Relic of our Holy Father Dionysios, Archbishop of Aegina, and its return from Strofades to Zakynthos.


Your offspring now happens to be incorrupt,
Be glad Zakynthos, with extreme gladness.
On the twenty-fourth the body comes healing mortals.

On 17 December 1622 Saint Dionysios reposed in his Monastery on the island of Zakynthos at the age of 75, with a last wish that he be buried in the Church of Saint George on the nearby Strofades islands at Strofades Monastery, where he had been a monk and served as abbot. His wish was carried out.

Three years later, when the remains were to be disinterred, they found the whole of his body incorrupt, exuding the odor of sanctity. For this reason they placed the body in a coffin and afterwards upright on the bishop's throne. The historian of the period, Ferrari, notes that, "I saw the sacred relics on the episcopal throne, intact, apart from the teeth and the tip of the nose."

Initially the monks placed the sacred relic in the narthex of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior. During the 5th Venetian-Turkish war for the conquest of Crete (1645-1669), the relic was moved for better security to the Church of the Panagia of Kaliterou (a Metochion of Strofades Monastery). After the war the monks brought the relic back to the Monastery of Strofades.

Although he had not yet been officially proclaimed a saint by the Church, the faithful honored him as such, as a result of the miracles performed daily at the behest of those who had recourse to him with faith. His many miracles established his position in the hearts of the Orthodox, with the result that he was later officially canonized by a decree of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under Patriarch Gabriel of Constantinople in 1703, signed by ten synodical bishops.

In the war of 1716 between the Turks and the Venetians, the Turkish admiral Hotza Pasha threatened to destroy Zakynthos if it did not submit to the Sultan. The Turks, however, suffered a defeat and began to withdraw. In the course of their retreat, a squadron of a hundred ships came to the Strofades Monastery to rob it of the treasures which the monks, meanwhile, had hidden in a cave, together with the body of the Saint. The treasures were stolen, but the body of the Saint was left alone - with the exception of his hands, which were divided up into four parts by four Christian members of the crew. Their leader, who had witnessed the scene, took the pieces of the hands from the Christians, since he thought that they might have some value. In fact, he sold them to the Bishop of Chios, Agathangelos, and the monk Akakios. The left hand is preserved today in the Panachrantos Monastery of Andros, while the right hand is at Simonopetra Monastery on the Holy Mountain. The monks who tried to resist the pillaging of the treasures were put to death by the Turks and their bodies burned.

After the looting of Strofades Monastery, five monks took the body of the Saint and brought it to Zakynthos on 22 August 1717. The holy relic arrived on August 24 on a Venetian boat. When the residents heard that Saint Dionysios had returned to Zakynthos, all gathered, rich and poor, healthy and sick, and welcomed the all-revered relic. Soon after a church was built to treasure the sacred relic, where to this day it works numerous miracles.

Subsequently, the Community of Zakynthos proclaimed Saint Dionysios patron of the island, in the place of Saint John the Forerunner and Panagia of Skopiotissa. It also designated August 24 as the anniversary of the translation of the relics of the Saint. This was after 1758 and before 1763, when the Venetian Senate approved the decision of the Intendant of Zakynthos, Francisco Manolesou, for the recognition of December 17th as the official feast day of the Saint every year. The procession which takes place on the 24th was established as a custom later, in 1901, when Dionysios Plessas was Archbishop of Zakynthos.

The translation of the relics of Saint Dionysios from the island of Strofades to Zakynthos, which occurred in 1717, is still celebrated annually on August 24th. The fathers of the monastery which keep his incorrupt relic reverently prepare the relic of their Patron by standing him in front of the Holy Altar at around 11:00AM, to the ringing of bells by not only the Monastery, but by all the churches of the island. According to the order of services, he stands here until the Great Vespers service, prior to which his relics will be processed around the Katholikon three times.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
The transposition of your all-honorable Relic, from Strofades to Zakynthos we celebrate, wise Dionysios, crying out to you, for this reason you ever grant bounteous grace, to the faithful who come to you, and divine aid, as a genuine healer in Christ.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
All the people of God keep your feast, of the transposition of your revered Relic, with all piety singing your praises, wise wonderworker Dionysios.

From Strophades as a treasure, your revered Relic comes, to the city of Zakynthos, and enriches with acts of wonder, the masses of the pious, O Dionysios.

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