April 24, 2016

Palm Sunday, the Deadly Epidemic of 1630, and the Miracle of Saint Spyridon

Palm Sunday, the great feast of Christianity, in Kerkyra is celebrated together with the commemoration of the miracle of Saint Spyridon, whereby the Saint saved the residents of the island from a deadly epidemic of the plague in 1630.

Every year on this day, after the Divine Liturgy, as a sign of remembrance and in honor of Saint Spyridon, a long procession takes place throughout the old town of Kerkyra, and a prayer of entreaty is read on the spot where stood the old walls of the city and the non-preserved Church of Saint Athanasios the Great.

In 1630, by the miraculous intervention Saint Spyridon, Kerkyra was saved from the plague, a deadly pestiferous terrible disease.

According to historical sources, the illness broke out in Kerkyra in October of 1629. It was transferred from a ship that arrived in Kerkyra from Italy.

The illness affected Italy and all the Ionian Islands. On Christmas of 1629 four cases were identified in Kerkyra and as time passed it proliferated.

Despite the stringent measures taken by the health authorities, the evil did not subside. There weren't nearly enough doctors to help those afflicted. People therefore fled to the intercessions of Saint Spyridon, their greatest and last hope.

Indeed, as it is written, the Saint did not remain unmoved by the entreaties and prayers of the people.

Shortly before the days of Pascha many of the sick saw him in their dreams blessing them and giving them back their health.

Also, the night watchmen of the Old Fortress would see a supernatural light hovering over the church of the Saint.

Slowly, slowly, day by day, the incidence decreased until they ceased altogether on Palm Sunday in 1630.

The people of Kerkyra attributed their salvation to a miracle of Saint Spyridon and they established from that time forward for a procession to take place with the sacred, wonderworking and incorrupt relic of Saint Spyridon every Palm Sunday.

The procession on this day is longer than all the others that take place throughout the year and the distance covers the perimeter of the Post-Byzantine city of Kerkyra. It is on this day also that all the philharmonic orchestras of the island join together and lead the procession throughout the streets.

Saint Spyridon is celebrated four times a year in Kerkyra in commemoration of local miracles.

1. On Palm Sunday in commemoration of the salvation of the island from the cholera of 1630.

2. On Holy Saturday when a procession takes place in commemoration of the salvation of the island from the plague of 1550.

3. On the first Sunday of November in commemoration of the salvation of the island from the deadly cholera of 1673.

4. On August 11th in commemoration of the island being rescued from the siege of the Turks in 1716.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.