Hundreds of faithful flocked to the Metropolis of the Greek island of Zakynthos on Friday to mark the feast day of Saint Dionysios, the patron saint of the Ionian island.
Later, they joined a procession as members of the Orthodox clergy carried aloft the relics of Saint Dionysios. His body is still almost intact five centuries after his death.
Saint Dionysios, who was born on the island in 1546, was the very symbol of Orthodox Christianity in the Ionian Sea Islands and on Zakynthos (also called Zante) in particular.
The life and death of Saint Dionysios in Zakynthos
In his early life, Dionysios joined a monastery on an islet located a few miles off the coast of Zakynthos. He was educated by priests and became fluent in Greek, Italian, and Latin. He excelled in theology, becoming a monk in 1568, and received his first degree of ordination as a priest in 1570 as Daniel; he later became hieromonk of Zakynthos and Strofades.
Dionysios eventually decided to travel to the Holy Land by way of Athens. After arriving in Athens, he was made Archbishop of Aegina.
In about the year 1589, the Patriarch of Constantinople made Archbishop Dionysios the Archbishop of Zakynthos, and he remained in this position until a permanent Archbishop arrived.
Afterward, he returned to his island monastery, where he lived out the rest of his life until his death at age 78 on December 17, 1624.
His relics are kept at the Metropolis of Zakynthos. According to believers, his body remains intact and emits a mixed fragrance of flowers and frankincense.
Dionysios was remarkable in his forgiveness and love for his fellow man. According to legend, a man came to his cell and begged the saint to hide him from his pursuers. When Dionysios asked him why he was being pursued, the man told him that he had killed a man. The murderer did not know that he had killed the saint’s own beloved brother, Constantine.
Dionysios was very grieved upon hearing the full truth, but hid the man and did not surrender him to the law. Instead, he instructed him and brought him to repentance. According to the legend, the murderer later repented and became a monk himself at that same monastery.
His sainthood was affirmed by the Patriarch of Constantinople.