Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Trimythous also sometimes written Saint Spiridon (Greek: Ἅγιος Σπυρίδων ca. 270 – 348) is a saint honoured in both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions.
Spyridon was born in Askia, in Cyprus. He worked as a shepherd and was known for his great piety. He married and had one daughter, Irene. Upon the death of his wife, Spyridon entered a monastery, and their daughter, a convent.
Spyridon eventually became Bishop of Trimythous, or Tremithous (today called Tremetousia), in the district of Larnaca. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), where he was instrumental in countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers.
He reportedly converted a pagan philosopher to Christianity by using a potsherd to illustrate how one single entity (a piece of pottery) could be composed of three unique entities (fire, water and clay); a metaphor for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
As soon as Spyridon finished speaking, the shard is said to have miraculously burst into flame, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in his hand (other accounts of this event say that it was a brick he held in his hand).
After the council, Saint Spiridon returned to his diocese in Tremithous. He later fell into disfavor during the persecutions of the emperor Maximinus, but died peacefully in old age. His biography was recorded by the hagiographer Simeon Metaphrastes and the church historians, Sozomen and Socrates Scholasticus.
Our father among the saints Spyridon of Trimythous the Wonderworker (Greek: Σπυρίδων ca. 270-348) was a fourth century bishop who was present at the First Ecumenical Council. He is also commonly referred to in Corfu as Keeper of the City (Greek: ο πολιούχος), since he is also the patron saint of that island (this is where his relics are located and venerated). He is commemorated by the church on December 12.
Spyridon was born in the village of Ashia (askia – “without shade”), Cyprus (270 AD) and died in Trimythous, Cyprus (348 AD). He was a peasant farmer and shepherd and was not educated. Spyridon was married and had a daughter, Irene. After his wife died, he and his daughter both entered into monasticism. He later became the Bishop of Trimythous (during the reign of Constantine the Great) and continued in piety for which he was greatly known.
He is the patron saint of potters (from the miracle of the potsherd).
During the Maximilian persecutions (295 AD) he was arrested and exiled. In 325 AD, he was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea where he astonished many with his simple explanations of the Orthodox Faith. Though not well-educated, he surprised everyone at the Council of Nicea by converting a famous philosopher to Orthodoxy from Arianism. He explained the unity and diversity of the Trinity by holding up a brick, then commonly thought to be a combination of the elements fire, earth and water; as he spoke, fire blazed from the top of the brick while water gushed out underneath. There too, at Nicea, he met St. Nicholas of Myra, with whom he formed a lasting friendship.
Through simplicity and deep devotion to God, he worked miracles throughout his life and became known as a great wonder-worker, calling forth rain in the midst of drought, casting out demons with a single word, healing the sick and even raising people from the dead, in addition to having the gift of prescience.
When he arrived back home from Nicea a woman told him that she had given his daughter, who had died while he was away, some jewelry for safekeeping. Now that his daughter was dead, no one could find where she had put them. Spyridon went to his daughter’s grave, spoke to her, and was able to restore the jewelry to its owner.
Also during a famine Spyridon changed a snake into gold pieces so that a poor man could buy food from a greedy merchant who had cornered the supply.
One day there was only himself and the deacon and readers in church at vespers, and the responses could be heard beautifully chanted by an unseen choir. The music was so beautiful that others, passing by, heard it and saw through the windows what seemed like a large congregation. Entering the church, however, they found only St. Spyridon and his assistants.
St. Spyridon lived most of his earthly life in Cyprus, where he also reposed in 348 AD and was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Trimythous.
When the Saracens took the island, the Cypriots opened his grave in order to remove his sacred bones to Constantinople. They found that his body had remained intact, while from the grave emanated a scent of basil, true signs of the sainthood he had shown during his lifetime. When Constantinople fell in 1453, he was transferred to Serbia, then a Corfiot elder, Georgios Kalohairetis, brought him to the island of Corfu in Greece where he is currently buried.
To this day St. Spyridon’s incorrupt relics at his shrine in Corfu continue to manifest the power of God, wondrous in His saints. He is called the “walking saint” because the silk slippers which clothe the feet of his relics wear out each year and are replaced on his feast day. His miracle in Corfu against the Turkish invasion of 1716 is commemorated on August 11.
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The island of Cyprus was both the birthplace and the place where this glorious saint served the Church. Spyridon was born of simple parents, farmers, and he remained simple and humble until his death. He married in his youth and had children, but when his wife died he devoted himself completely to the service of God. Because of his exceptional piety, he was chosen as bishop of the city of Tremithus. Yet even as a bishop he did not change his simple way of living, handling his livestock and cultivating his land himself. He used very little of the fruits of his labor for himself; instead, he distributed a greater share to the needy. He manifested great miracles by God’s power: he brought down rain in time of drought, stopped the flow of a river, raised several people from the dead, healed Emperor Constantius of a grave illness, saw and heard angels of God, foresaw future events, discerned the secrets of men’s hearts, converted many to the true Faith, and did much else. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea , and he brought many heretics back to Orthodoxy by his simple and clear expositions of the Faith as well as by his mighty miracles. He was so simply dressed that once, when he wanted to enter the imperial court at the invitation of the emperor, a soldier, thinking that he was a beggar, struck him on the face. Meek and guileless, Spyridon turned the other cheek to him. He glorified God through many miracles, and was of benefit, not only to many individuals but also to the whole Church of God. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 348. His miracle-working relics rest on the island of Corfu, and even today they glorify God with many miracles.
Absolutely nothing will help us if we are not lenient toward the weaknesses of men and forgive them. For how can we hope that God will forgive us if we do not forgive others? St. Spyridon once sold a hundred goats to a merchant at an agreed price, and the saint told the buyer to lay down the money. The buyer, knowing that Spyridon himself never counted money, handed over enough money for ninety-nine goats and hid the money for one. Spyridon then counted out a hundred goats for him. But when the merchant and his servants drove off the goats, one of them returned bleating. He drove it off, but it returned again. And so the goat continually returned to the enclosure, not wanting to go with the other goats. The saint then whispered into the merchant’s ear: “Observe, my son: this animal is not doing this in vain. Did you perhaps withhold her price?” The merchant became ashamed and acknowledged his sin. As soon as he paid the amount he had concealed, the goat immediately joined the other goats.
On another occasion, some thieves entered Spyridon’s sheepfold. When they had seized as many sheep as they wanted, they tried to leave the sheepfold, but an invisible force nailed them to the ground, and they were unable to move. At dawn, the bishop came to his sheepfold. Seeing the thieves, he reproached them mildly and instructed them to strive in the future to live by their own labors and not by thievery. He then took a sheep and gave it to them, saying, “Take this for your trouble, so that your all-night vigil not be in vain,” and he dismissed them in peace.
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