May 2, 2010

The Relics of Saint Athanasius the Great

These are the supposed relics of St. Athanasius the Great, in the Church of San Zaccaria, in Venice, Italy. However, they are not in fact the relics of St. Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria. They were brought to Venice from Constantinople in 1455 by the Venetian shipowner Domenico Zottarello after the Fall of Constantinople and were falsely labelled as the relic of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, which is how they are erroneously venerated today in Venice. In reality, it is the relic of St. Athanasios I, Patriarch of Constantinople, who died around 1310. In 1705 the head of the Saint was destroyed in a fire, and it was replaced with a gold-plated head. In 1807 the relic was transferred to the Church of San Zaccaria in Venice.

Portions of the relics of St. Athanasius can also be found in the Church of Saint Nektarios in Kamariza Lavriou in Attica, the Athonite Monasteries of Iveron, Zographou and Esphigmenou., as well the Monasteries of the Great Cave in Kalavryta, Prousos in Eurytania and Agathonos in Fthiotida.

Pope Shenouda III restored portions of the relics of St. Athanasius to Egypt on 15 May 1973, after his historical visit to the Vatican and meeting with Pope Paul VI. The relics of St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria are currently preserved under the new St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Deir El-Anba Rowais, Abbassiya, Cairo, Egypt. (Below)