Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Trimythous
(c. 270 – 348)
Spyridon was born in Askeia, 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.
Spyridon is the patron saint of potters (from the purported miracle of the potsherd) and the island of Corfu where he is called: “Αγιος Σπυρίδων ο πολιούχος”, “Saint Spyridon, the Keeper of the City” for the miracle of expelling the plague (πανώλη) from the island.
St. Spyridon is also believed to have saved the island at the second great siege of Corfu which took place in 1716. At that time the Turkish army and naval force led by the great Sultan Achmet III appeared in Butrinto opposite Corfu.
On July 8 the Turkish fleet carrying 33,000 men sailed to Corfu from Butrinto and established a beachhead in Ipsos.
The same day the Venetian fleet encountered the Turkish fleet off the channel of Corfu and defeated it in the ensuing naval battle.
On July 19 the Turkish army reached the hills of the town and laid siege to the city.
After repeated failed attempts and heavy fighting, the Turks were forced to raise the siege which had lasted 22 days.
There were also rumours spreading among the Turks that some of their soldiers saw St. Spyridon as a monk threatening them with a lit torch and that helped increase their panic.
This victory over the Ottomans, therefore, was attributed not only to the leadership of Count Schulenburg who commanded the stubborn defence of the island against the Ottomas but also to the miraculous intervention of St. Spyridon.
After the victorious outcome of the battle, Venice honoured Schulenburg and the Corfiotes for successfully defending the island.
The great composer Vivaldi was commissioned to write an opera, Juditha triumphans, in celebration of the victory.