Although the patron saint of Corfu, Spyridon (masc. Spyros, fem. Spyridoula) is quite a common name on Skiathos and his icons adorn many of the local churches. St. Spyridon came from Cyprus and was born in 270. His family was very poor and they could not afford to give their son any education whatsoever and so, he became a shepherd. He married young and had several children but when his wife died, his life took somewhat of a turn and he became a man of the church, eventually becoming bishop.
St. Spyridon would have met our friend St. Nicholas, as they both attended the famous council of Nicaea in 325, where many of the creeds of the Christian Church (that still prevail) were determined. One famous story from this meeting tells how St. Spyridon proved the Holy Trinity by showing everyone a potsherd that suddenly caught fire and turned into dust and water; three elements incorporated as one.
Just like his fellow saints, St. Spyridon was known for his many acts of charity and he is believed to have had the powers of healing and exorcism. One of his even more impressive talents was to be able to control the elements: he is said to have stopped the flow of a stream when unable to cross it on his way to rescue a friend in need and on another occasion he lit all the candles in a church simultaneously. People also used to pray to him for rain.
In icons, St. Spyridon is depicted as an elderly man with a long, white beard, wearing a basket on his head (spyris means basket). His relics are now kept on Corfu, where they were taken by a monk to save them from the Turks. His right hand, however, now rests in Rome. On Corfu there are stories about how the saint has rescued the island on several occasions: from Turks, famine, cholera and the plague.
St. Spyridon is celebrated on the 12th of December (by Catholics on the 14th) and he is the patron saint of shepherds, potters, Corfu and the Tolstoy family. If you know anyone called Spyros or Spyridoula, wish them χρόνια πολλά (chronia polla – many years) on 12/12.
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