Corfu, Greece 1630: Contrary to the recommendations of their doctors to avoid crowding, the faithful population dared to hasten to the holy temple of their patron Saint Spyridon in tears, and in fact overcrowding it.... and salvation wasn’t long in arriving!
Find out how Saint Spyridon saved Corfu from the plague....
Could it be about time we did the same?
Around 1629-30 A.D. a new tribulation struck the blessed island of Kerkyra (Corfu). It was a contagious and deadly disease, which had now struck without discerning or mercy. It was the plague.
Men and women, young and old, rich and poor were infected daily by this accursed pestilence and were dying both in the city as well as the countryside in the villages. With the onset of the first cases, the island’s administration hastened to vote on assigning a huge sum of money in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease. But their struggle was in vain.
Not long after, the beautiful island of Corfu was on the brink of becoming totally deserted. Shops both in the city as well as the other major centres were closed. The only things moving on the streets every now and then were a few horse-drawn carts loaded with corpses, which took their macabre loads outside the city for mass burials. The island was an overall tragic picture to behold...
One day, amid this earth-shattering tragedy, and contrary to the recommendations of their doctors to avoid crowding, the faithful albeit suffering populace dared to hasten en masse to the holy temple of their patron Saint Spyridon (and in fact overcrowding it), where, with crushed souls and burning tears they begged for his intercession. And salvation wasn’t long in arriving. It was offered swiftly and bounteously.
Corfu’s historian Andreas Marmoras who was alive at the time tells us that–despite the shortage of necessary medicines- the fearsome epidemic very soon was confined to a minimum, and that by Palm Sunday, it had vanished altogether.
During all of the nights that the city was being tormented by the disease, above the roof of the Saint’s temple one could see something that glowed like an otherworldly lamp. It was understood as a sign that the Saint was keeping vigil and guarding his people. This was the explanation given by all the faithful. The glow was constantly visible by the night watchmen standing guard atop their watchtowers.
This terrible epidemic – the plague – reappeared a second time in Corfu, after about 40 years, in 1673 A.D.. Once again, the epidemic spread swiftly throughout towns and villages. Again, the cases were more than many. The Grim Reaper’s scythe was again harvesting a very large number of the island’s denizens.
Upon the supplications of his people, the wonder-working Saint hastened to again present their contrition and tears - along with his own - before the throne of divine Majesty, beseeching Him and finally receiving heavenly mercy to save them.
The words of the Spirit of God: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15) were truly realized in this case. To the supplications of the divine Hierarch and the repentant people, God’s response did not delay. Day by day, the the spread of the disease decreased to a minimum, and in the last days of October, it abruptly ended. And again, above the church belfry for three nights the people could see a steady glow, and in that otherworldly light, the hovering form of the saint holding a Crucifix in his hand and fending off a pitch-black ghostly form (the disease) that was trying to avoid the Saint and escape.
The gratitude and the thanks of the faithful people were once again immense. With an Enactment by the Venetian Administration at the time, it was appointed that from then on, every first Sunday of November there would be a celebratory Litany of the Saint’s Sacred Relics throughout the land, so that the people – and especially the younger generations – may remember the island’s true and ever-vigilant protector and saviour.