|For over a 100 years after his death,
sweet-scented exhalations were perceived emanating from his tomb,
until the local churchmen dug it up and found his body intact. The
holy remains were kept in Cyprus for over 300 years. In the second
half of the 17th century the Saint's body was carried to Constantinople,
until the fall of the city to the Turks in 1453. Shortly after the
Turkish conquest, the priest George Kalochairetis carried off the
body of the Saint, together with that of Saint Theodora and he brought
them to Corfu in 1456. Since that year St. Spyridon has never ceased
to be the object of devout veneration by the faithful.
There are four annual processions taking place in Corfu in remembrance
of four miracles wrought by the Saint. These were first established
during the period of Venetian rule and are still held every year.
The great Palm Sunday procession commemorates the miraculous deliverance
of the island from a deadly plague and comes second in order of
antiquity. In 1629 Corfu was stricken by the plague. The inhabitants
of the island gathered in despair in St. Spyridon's church and prayed
to the Saint for salvation. From that day the number of deaths was
reduced. At the same time a light, like that of a small lamp, was
observed by the night sentinels of the Old Fortress. By Palm Sunday
the epidemic was over and this was ascribed to the miraculous interception
of the Saint.
The Easter Saturday procession, first held in the second half
of the 16th century, commemorates the relief of the island from
famine and is the oldest of the four. It is combined with the Orthodox
ritual of carrying the 'Epitaphios', a gilt bier representing the
body of Jesus Christ being borne to the grave. This custom dates
back to 1574, when the Venetian Senate prohibited the Greek Orthodox
procession of the 'Epitaphios' taking place on Good Friday. That's
why, the procession was moved from Good Friday to Easter Saturday,
exclusively for the church of St. Spyridon. After the procession
the Saint's body is exposed for three days for general worship.
The story of the procession dates back to the middle of the 16th
century. According to the legend the inhabitants were suffering
from famine. Unexpectedly on Easter Saturday, ships loaded with
flour sailed into Corfu harbor. They were sailing past the island
and had been diverted by St. Spyridon, who appeared in one of the
captain's dreams and told him to change their course and sail at
once to Corfu because the population was starving.
The third procession is held in 11th of August in remembrance
of the Saint's deliverance of the island from the Turkish siege
in 1716. The legend of the Saint mentions that St. Spyridon appeared
to the enemy holding a flashing sword and pursuing them. After the
procession the Saint's body is exposed for general worship for three
days and two nights. The procession was first held in 1717.
The last of the processions of St. Spyridon is that on the first
Sunday in November in commemoration of the miraculous interception
of the saint in saving Corfu from a deadly plague. The plague was
first identified in the suburbs and soon spread all over the town.
Then suddenly at the end of October it stopped after bringing death
to thousands. For three nights a light was seen in the bell-tower
of St. Spyridon's church and the figure of the Saint appeared carrying
a cross driving the plague away. At the request of the people of
Corfu, the Venetian Governor allowed the procession to be held every
year on the first Sunday in November.