June 23, 2017

The Discovery of the Relics of Saint Barbaros the Myrrhgusher in 2013

The reliquary containing a portion of the skull of St. Barbaros in Potamos, Kerkyra

Saint Barbaros lived in the ninth century and died after living a stric ascetic life in Tryfo in Xiromero of the municipality of Aetolia-Acarnania in Greece, where he was also buried and worked numerous miracles. Many centuries after the death of Saint Barbaros, in 1571, an officer from Venice named Sklavounos, who was taking part at that time in the naval battle of Nafpaktos, fell seriously ill and saw the Saint in a dream, telling him to go to his grave to be healed. Indeed, as soon as the officer venerated the tomb, he was miraculously healed and took the holy myrrhgushing relics of the Saint with him as he departed.

While traveling to Venice, he set ashore at the village of Potamos in Kerkyra. There, the Saint healed a paralytic, and for this reason a church dedicated to him was erected, in which he is honored to this day. There is also a church dedicated to the Saint, in addition to one at the site of his asceticism in Tryfo, in a village in Leukada. In Tryfo the chains of the Saint were stolen by the Turks. In 1878 a church was built there over the older church, and his tomb was consecrated in 1999. He is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on May 15th and June 23rd.

It has been surmised that his wonderworking relics ended up in Venice, Italy and were possibly later preserved in a village in northern Italy that bears the Saint’s name: San Barbaro. However, a recent discovery may throw some light at least where a portion of his relics may have ended up.

In 2013 representatives from the Church of Saint Barbaros in Potamos of Kerkyra, after two years research was conducted to discover the location of the relics of Saint Barbaros, went to Vodnjan in Croatia. There they discovered a portion from the skull and a large portion of the body of Saint Barbaros in the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Blaise.

The relics of Saint Barbaros came to Vodnjan in the following manner. In 1797 Venice fell to the armies of Napoleon. An order was thus given for all the holy relics to be put to the flames. Certain monks, defiant of this sacrilegious order, put their lives on the line and took as many relics as they could carry and brought them to Croatia. Among these were the relics of Saint Barbaros.

On February 3, 2013 the Catholic Bishop Drazen Kutlesa, after celebrating Mass, handed over a portion of the skull of Saint Barbaros to the Catholic Archbishop of Kerkyra Mario Regos and the Orthodox priest of the Church of Saint Barbaros in Kerkyra, Fr. George Petrakis. This was done, according to Bishop Drazen, in order to promote more dialogue and cooperation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. He also thanked Saint Barbaros for uniting them on that day, and hoped that he would help unite them in the future as well. Fr. George also thanked the Catholic Bishop and spoke to everyone about the history of Saint Barbaros. The relics were joyously received by the people of Kerkyra, and many came and venerated his relics on May 15th in 2013.

Brief Life of Saint Barbaros the Pentapolitis and Myrrhgusher

After having committed many crimes, thefts and murders, Saint Barbaros repented and at first condemned himself to crawl on all fours for three years and to eat with dogs and, second, to live twelve years in the forest without clothes, without a roof and without food except grass and leaves. He received news from the angels that his sins are forgiven. Some merchants traveling through the forest and seeing Barbaros from afar thought that it was an animal and not a man, aimed their arrows at him and pierced him. Dying, Barbaros begged them to inform the nearest priest about him. The priest arrived and buried him honorably. From his body flowed healing myrrh which cured various diseases and pains of men.