02 August 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
65, Church of Saint Spyridon, Corfu

Inside the Church of Spyridon, the most prominent church in the heart of the old town of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is a public holiday in Ireland. But as the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning before the day gets busy to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This week’s theme is seven churches on the Greek island of Corfu, and my photographs this morning (2 August 2021) are of the Church of Saint Spyridon in Corfu.

The tower of Saint Spyridon is the tallest on the Ionian islands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Saint Spyridon is the most prominent church in the heart of the old town of Corfu. The church was built in the 1580s to house the relics of Saint Spyridon, who, according to legends, has saved the island four times from Ottoman invasions.

Saint Spyridon was born in 270 AD in Assia, a village in Cyprus. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He was the Bishop of Trimythous, near Larnaca in Cyprus, until he died in 348 AD. When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was moved to Constantinople. After Constantinople fell in 1453, the relics of Saint Spyridon and Saint Theodora were brought to Corfu.

The relics of Saint Spyridon were later housed in a private chapel owned by the Voulgaris family. This church was demolished in 1537, and the saint’s remains were moved to a new church built in the 1580s.

The church, just behind the Liston, is a single-nave basilica and the bell tower, the highest in the Ionian Islands, is similar in design to the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice. Inside the church, in a small chapel to the right of the iconostasis, the remains of Saint Spyridon are kept in a double sarcophagus.

The ceiling was originally painted by Panagiotis Doxaras in 1727. But his work decayed over time and was replaced by later copies. Above the west door of the narthex, the imperial coat of arms of the House of Romanov stands as a reminder that the church was under the nominal protection of Russia from 1807 until 1917.

Spyridon, or Spyros, is a popular name throughout Corfu. Saint Spyridon’s body is carried around the town of Corfu four times a year to celebrate his miracles. His feast day is on 12 December.

Saint Spyridon is buried in a double sarcophagus behind the icon screen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 14: 13-21 (NRSVA):

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16 Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17 They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18 And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.’

The front of the marble iconostasis resembles the exterior of the entrance of a baroque-style church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (2 August 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Nippon Sei Ko Kai [the Anglican Church in Japan]. May we work alongside them in partnership to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The people of Corfu come to the church to have children baptised, engagement rings blessed, for weddings, and to pray and light candles every day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The tower of Saint Spyridon Church is a landmark in the heart of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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