September 20, 2012

The Relics of Saint Theodore the Tiro in Brindisi, Italy

There are two theories as to how the relics of St. Theodore the Tiro (known as St. Theodore of Amasea in the West) came to Brindisi, Italy: The first is that a ship containing the relics was going to Venice from the East (what is today St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice was originally the location of a church dedicated to St. Theodore) when, according to tradition, the ship stopped near the coast of Brindisi on 27 April 1210. The people took this as a sign that St. Theodore wanted to stay in Brindisi. The second hypothesis is that the relics were transported to Brindisi on occasion of the marriage between the emperor Fredrick II and Isabelle of Briene, Queen of Jerusalem. In fact, the marriage was celebrated in the Cathedral of Brindisi on November 9, 1225. In the museum of the cathedral, there is still kept the silk gold woven (with Byzantine patterns) sheet which enveloped the relics during the trip and the reliquary of real wood covered with silver, with the scenes of the martydom of the Saint and where the relics had been until the 18th century.

From 25 August to 3 September Brindisi celebrates its patron saints: San Teodoro d’Amasea (St. Theodore of Amasea) and San Lorenzo da Brindisi (Saint Lawrence from Brindisi). The festival is full of religious and civil events (processions on land and at sea, historical regatta – il Palio dell’Arca, fireworks, music concerts, etc.).

On 31 August there is a traditional boat race called “Palio dell’Arca”, organized in memory of the fishermen who, in the 13th century, found the relics of St. Theodore in a small boat that had been brought by the sea to the harbor of Brindisi.

On 1 September is the boat parade led by the ship that carries the statues and the relics of the Saints around the inner port from Aragon’s castle to the docks in front of the Capitaneria di Porto (at the beginning of Viale Regina Margherita), from where they are escorted to the Cathedral. As per tradition the procession ends with huge fireworks from the Sailors Monument on the other side of the harbor.

This ceremony began in 1776 as a cult to St. Theodore and was later extended to include Saint Lawrence, who was born in the city of Brindisi. (see photos of ceremony here)

In Brindisi there is a Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, which every year hosts the relics of St. Theodore for one day during this festival in September with the celebration of a solemn Divine Liturgy and a Supplication Service. The photos posted here are from this occasion.