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Τρίτη, 17 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Saint Dionysios (Aghios Dionysios) of Zakynthos

Saint Dionysios, the patron saint of the island of Zakynthos, is an inseparable part of the lives of all the people of Zakynthos. They cherish, honour and respect him dearly.


Saint Dionysios was born in approximately 1547, the second son of the archon Nucius Sigouros and the noblewoman Paulina Valvi. The Sigouros family was one of the oldest and largest families of Zakynthos and had been recorded in the Libro d’ Oro. Saint Dionysios, alias Draganigos Sigouros, had an elder brother, Constantine, and a younger sister, Sigoura. He was very young when he chose to be engaged in the holy, and was never interested in the privileges and amenities that his noble descent could offer him.

He spend the years of his youth in Zakynthos, and received his primary education in the “small-fry school” (“paidiko scoleio”) of Nicolaos Kairofylas, an orthodox clergyman with great spiritual insight. Draganigos learned Greek, Italian and Latin, and studied the Holy Bible, as an apprentice next to local and foreign theologians.

In 1568 he decides to become a priest and is ordained a votary and dedicates himself to his religion receiving the name Daniil. He withdraws to the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Metamorfosi tou Sotiros) of the Strophada Islands (south of Zakynthos) where he dons the monastic habit. He had already begun to perform miracles, and the written documents of the time speak of a highly moral and kind person, dedicated to his cause; a person who never disregarded or ignored his fellow beings.

In 1577 he is appointed Archbishop of Aegina and Poros by Nikanoras, Archbishop of Athens, and is named Dionysios. He stayed in Aegina until 1578, and was greatly loved by the people of the island. Due to the depopulation of the island of Aegina by pirates, the holy monastery is left without a flock. Thus, he returns to his homeland, Zakynthos, where the people welcome him with unequalled joy and deep emotion. The Hierarch Dionysios is named “President of Zakynthos” by his fellow citizens of the island.
      

During that period, there was great turmoil amongst the noble families of Zakynthos, which struck the family of Saint Dionysios as well: his brother Constantine was murdered. According to tradition, his brother’s killer wandered hunted down by the Authorities, until he reaches the monastery of Anaphonitria. He there confesses his horrid crime to Saint Dionysios, who offers him forgiveness, and even helps him escape late at night giving him a boat in order to flee to Kefalonia. The Saint did this to put an end to the long conflict that separated the noble families of Zakynthos. He put his personal feelings aside, and above all concerned himself with the best interest and welfare of the people, as well as the prevalence of peace. The killer’s name still remains unknown until nowadays, since all written documents of the time in Venice and Zakynthos concerning the murder of Constantinos Sigouros, have mysteriously disappeared.

Throughout his life, Saint Dionysios secretly benefited the poor and needy, made sure that young children received proper education and was an exemplary pastor. He performed many miracles, but wished for his acts to remain unknown. He reposed in peace on December 17th 1622, after a long period of malady. His wish was to be buried at Strophadia, at the church of Saint George. During the removal of his relics, his body was intact, and divine scent emerged from his grave. In 1703, he is proclaimed Saint by the Patriarch of Constantinople Gabriel. His relics were moved to Zakynthos after the Turks attacked the Strophadia islands.


Saint Dionysios is officially canonised as Patron Saint of the island during the 18th century, and still holds an important place in the hearts of all Zakynthians, while his lifelong example of grandeur still moves and inspires the people of the island. His memory is celebrated twice a year in Zakynthos: on December 17th, official celebration day for the Saint, and on the 14th of August, day of the removal of his relics from Strophadia to Zakynthos.

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