February 1, 2022

Saint Tryphon, Patron Saint of Vine Growers

By Katerina Houzouri

Among the Saints that our Church celebrates today is Saint Tryphon, who is the protector of vine growers. In iconography, the Saint is presented young with curly hair and a pruner in his hand. Saint Tryphon is associated with viticulture, because he came from an area which had one of the largest vineyards of that time.

Saint Tryphon lived in the middle of the third century, in Lampsaki of Phrygia. He came from a poor family and was a shepherd of geese. He was pious, virtuous and humble, as his biographer notes, and he studied Holy Scripture. God gave him the gift of healing diseases and casting out demons. A miraculous incident of healing of the empress's daughter, who was tormented by a demon, is reported. When Decius ascended the throne, he proclaimed a persecution against the Christians. Tryphon was denounced as a Christian and taken to the prefect Aquilinus, in Nicaea of Bithynia. Horrible tortures followed the Saint's refusal to sacrifice to the gods. Saint Tryphon prayed to God, asking for the forgiveness of his executioners. Seeing that they could not force him to deny Christ, they ordered his beheading. But the Saint surrendered his soul to God before he was beheaded.

But how is Saint Tryphon connected with the vineyards? In rural societies, as is well known, the people had combined agricultural work and festivals with the feasts of the Saints. This month is when pruning begins. It is an important viticultural work, which rejuvenates the vineyard. By pruning, the vinedresser cuts the extravagant branches of the vine to control the acreage yield of the vineyard. The pruning process is crucial for the quality of the fruit of the vine, ie the grape.

Today, in honor of the Saint, they do not prune. Anyone who disobeys, according to tradition, will be pierced. Also, today they sprinkle the vines with holy water, to bear good fruit and to be protected from bad weather conditions (hail, rain, strong winds), diseases and rodents. In Goumenissa they especially honor Saint Tryphon, as the traditions carried with them by the refugees from Eastern Rumelia remain alive. There, in the Chapel of Saint Tryphon, at the highest point of the settlement of Anatolikoromyliotes, in Goumenissa, the Divine Liturgy and the Sanctification of the Waters are performed. Believers will venerate the icon of the Saint, which is adorned with vines and grapes. Then the so-called Kourbania is made. This is a custom according to which after the Divine Liturgy, boiled beef is distributed to the pilgrims, which has been purchased by offerings of the inhabitants of Goumenissa. Wine is also consumed, followed by traditional dances. Customs and traditions for the feast of Saint Tryphon are performed today in other areas of Greece, but the Kourbania is perhaps the most famous.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.