January 22, 2021

The Veneration of Saint Anastasios the Persian in Zakynthos

By Dionysis Flemotomos

In Zakynthos, the name Anastasios celebrates on January 22, the day of the commemoration of Saint Anastasios the Persian, and not at Easter, as usually happens in the rest of Greece. This is also one of our many peculiarities, for which, as we have written other times, a special, local holiday calendar needs to be published, so that foreigners can wish us without mistakes and the necessary corrections from us, the "Many Years".

The church of this not so well-known Martyr and Saint existed in the center of the city and at the beginning of the street which led to the old hospital. It was built at the end of the 17th century by the Cretan refugee and Archpriest Stephanos Paladas, who, along with many other compatriots, found refuge on our island, after the fall of Candia. Later this temple, according to information of our various historians, came under the ownership of John Katramis, Martinegou, A. Modinou and P. Tzanne and, unfortunately, was burned down by the earthquake catastrophe of August 1953. Today, there is a street with the name of the Saint of the church, to commemorate its existence, since the older residents post-earthquake also called the area "Agios Anastasis", but today no one remembers it.

The spread of the veneration of the Persian Venerable Martyr in Zakynthos is testified, among others, by the publication of his service in Patras, by one of the owners of the above church, John Katramis. It is also confirmed by the existence of a second church, which honored his name and was located in the village of Riza Bougiato, owned by the Martelaou family. But it should not be considered accidental that the figure of Saint Anastasios is one of the three of the iconostasis of Panagia Trimartyros in Akrotiri. This icon, which was saved from the earthquake and is kept today in the homonymous, post-earthquake church, is a signed work of Nikolaos Kallergis, painted, according to the inscription, in 1724 and, in addition to the Saint who concerns us, also depicts the martyrs George and Lucia.

An icon of the same Saint is kept in the current Museum of our island and comes from the ruined Church of Saint George in Kypriana or Tsipriana or of the Nuns. But also in the Church of Saint Anthony in Andritsis, the festival of the Saint took place, because there was a piece of his relic. This was a donation of the half-brother of our national poet, Dionysios Solomos, Roberto, and was kept in the historic church until the repairs of the neighboring Prophet Elias were completed, to which the donor had given the precious heirloom.

It is also worth noting that the learned priest Anastasios Gordios, when he composed his well-known epigrams, dedicated to the sacred roofs of our island city, located in the Zakynthos Quarantine Hospital, did not fail to include the church of the center of Chora, lyricizing the following:

"I venerate out of desire you who bear my name,
at your nearby temple and do thou accept me."

Of course, as we read in the epigram, the main reason for its composition is that the author had the name of the Saint of the temple. The fact that he knew him, however, shows the fame of the Venerable Martyr was great in Zakynthos and that the people of the island revered and honored him.

The veneration and honor of the Martyr is known not only in Zakynthos, but also in the other Ionian Islands. In Kerkyra, however, the name "Anastasios" is quite common, as in our island, and its nickname is "Sakis".

Relic of St. Anastasios the Persian in Venice

The question is how the fame of the not so well known Persian Venerable Martyr reached Zakynthos and the other Ionian islands.

The answer, I think, is simple. His relic, after many adventures, ended up in the floating city and capital of Venice and it is still there today in the Church of Saint Francis of the Vine, having a great popularity among the faithful, because, among other things, according to tradition, it emits myrrh. It is logical, then, that all the people of Zakynthos and the Ionian Islands should have known about it, having gone there for their many affairs, and in this way to transfer his veneration to their islands.

Whatever the case, however, all the people of Zakynthos, like the other Ionians, know that January 22 is the feast of Saint Anastasios and consider it a great holiday, with many inhabitants bearing the name, even though the calendar does not have a cross on this day.

It is our duty to keep this particularity of ours alive. In such small cases our culture is hidden. Let's not level everything.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.