“ Address: Zakynthos Town 29100 / Greece „
~~GOING TO CHURCH~~
On my holiday spent on the island of Zakynthos (Zante) I felt that it just wouldn't be right if I didn't find time to visit its main town. And so my husband and I set out one morning to visit the town. We travelled by taxi. On our arrival in Zante Town the first place we visited was the beautiful church of St Dionysios.
~~OUTSIDE THE CHURCH~~
The church stands in a commanding position, I thought, close to the shoreline. The bell tower, the monastery of St Dionysios and the museum stand close by, and the bell tower in particular, complement the sight of the church.
Apparently the church and bell tower (the bell tower is a copy of St Marco's in Venice) together are a brilliant sight to see at night as then the bell tower is lit by many lights and the illumination is cast over the church. It must certainly be an impressive sight to see if sailing into the port of Zante on one of the many cruise ships that stop here, on this island. Unfortunately we only managed to see the church in the daytime. Maybe next time!
Our first view of the church was from the road (Strada Marina) and the morning sun was shining brightly. We paused for a few minutes outside the church to look at the exterior, which we had read is Venetian in appearance.
The church, St Dionysios, is dedicated to the island's patron Saint Dionysios (Dennis to the English).
~~ABOUT SAINT DIONYSIOS~~
Saint Dionysios was born on the island of Zakynthos in the year 1547. He is known as being forgiving as he forgave the murderer of his own brother. He was an educated man.
Many miracles are attributed to him after his death.
During St Dionysios' childhood there wasn't any state education on the island but Dionysios was educated by priests and learnt languages such as Greek, Italian and Latin.
"...it was no surprise that he decided to enter into the priesthood and to assume a life of monasticism. At this time, he was given the name of Daniel, and spent time in seclusion before being ordained to the priesthood in 1570.
He spent the next few years traveling between Zakynthos and Strofades, at the two monasteries in which he served. St. Dionysios gained much respect from the clergy and people in both places, and in 1577 he was ordained Archbishop of Aegina-Poros. With the ordinations that were bestowed upon St. Dionysios, it seemed that a special gift also was bestowed upon him. The many blessings, which he granted to his people, seemed to produce miracles and caused St. Dionysios' popularity to grow even more. St. Dionysios served as the Archbishop of Aegina for one year before feeling the need to return to Zakynthos. With his return to the island, St. Dionysios was appointed Bishop and President of Zakynthos, which allowed him to continue serving his people. However, by the spring of 1622, St. Dionysios' health had deteriorated greatly, and he was forced to permanently remain in his cell, unable to carry out his responsibilities. In the autumn of that year, St. Dionysios took a turn for the worse and moved to his sister's home where he could receive care. On December 17, 1622, St. Dionysios came to rest in the arms of God. Several years later, when his body was removed from its grave, his remains not only were found intact, but his body emitted a mixed fragrance of flowers and frankincense. Upon finding this, the monks of Strofades began to venerate Archbishop Dionysios as a saint, and at the end of the seventeenth century, the Patriarch of Constantinople proclaimed his divine nature by making his sainthood official.
Among the many blessings and miracles for which St. Dionysios will be remembered is his unbelievable act of forgiveness. In December of 1580, St. Dionysios' brother, Konstantinos, was murdered by a man, who in trying to flee from the authorities, found refuge at the monastery where St. Dionysios served as abbot. While at the monastery, the murderer confessed the sin to St. Dionysios, who not only forgave him of the crime, but hid him from the soldiers and helped him escape across the sea to the shores of Cephalonia. St. Dionysios serves as a continual reminder to all Orthodox Christians that we should not let our hearts be hardened by evil or burdened with vengeance, but should forgive those who do wrong.
St. Dionysios also is known for the numerous miracles which he performed after his death. Currently, St. Dionysios' body resides intact in a locked, viewable, tomb at the Church of St. Dionysios in Zakynthos. Often times, his tomb is unable to be opened. Many believe that this happens when St. Dionysios is out walking to perform a needed miracle. This is because often times when the tomb is unlocked and opened, seaweed is found at his feet, and his slippers are worn thin. In fact, his slippers need continual replacement because they receive so much wear. Furthermore, there are many stories told by people who have seen St. Dionysios alive and walking in front of them, or who have received one of his miracles. Because of these occurrences, upon visiting the relics of St. Dionysios, and upon hearing of his numerous stories and miracles, many of the Ionian Village participants remember St. Dionysios as the "Saint of Forgiveness" or as the "Walking Saint." "
~~INSIDE THE CHURCH~~
The church of St Dionysios is one of Greek Orthodox denomination.
Even on this week day morning it was apparent by the comings and goings, both inside and outside of the church, that it is much visited by those interested in viewing this lovely and interesting church and especially for those coming here to worship.
The doors were wide open and the church felt welcoming to us and and so in we went. On ascending the church steps (there are also ramps) and walking inside we spoke in hushed tones in respect for the church itself and also, of course, for those who were here in regard to their faith.
As expected we saw a sign informing visitors that photographs were not to be taken inside the church.
The church is the largest in the town but I was surprised that it was as large as it was because I didn't think viewed from outside it gave this impression. I also didn't expect it to be as ornate as the outside didn't give me this impression.
One of the first sights that we then noticed was the many golden candles already lit and those waiting to be lit. I decided that I would light a candle after I had looked around the church.
The church of St Dionysios was founded in the year 1708 and it was restored around fifty years later. I am not sure of the exact year as I have read several accounts which all give different years for its restoration.
Fortunately the church survived the Zante earthquake of 1953.
The church was renovated in 2000.
We walked slowly and almost in silence, noticing the detail used to decorate just about everywhere in this lovely church. The wooden pews were carved and there were a lot of them, this being a large church. I would imagine the church is usually, probably always, full at times of church services.
The sun shone through the stained glass windows.
One could not help but notice the religious frescos on the walls. It seemed as if no part of the church had been forgotten and everywhere had been decorated, painted or adorned with love.
Some paintings within the church are the work of Koutouzis and Doxaras .
We noticed several women entering the church (separately) and, after making the sign of the cross, going towards a painting which they then kissed in reverence.
As well as other tourists walking carefully around the church there were worshippers and some who seemed to be having an hour or so of sanctuary inside their church.
~~THE SILVER CASKET~~
We reached the ornate silver casket with its silver work done by chaser Bafas. The casket holds the remains of Saint Dionysios.
Every year on the 24th August (we just missed this) the town holds a large festival and the casket is carried through the town of Zante, followed by a marching band. The festival is one of celebration and thanksgiving with street processions. A market is set up especially for the festival and this continues for a few days. The parade through the town ends with fireworks.
Close to the casket were visitors and worshippers.
~~LIGHT A CANDLE WITH LOVE~~
Before we left the church of St Dionysios I placed a small donation inside a box for the purpose of lighting a candle. I said a few silent words in remembrance of loved ones now sadly departed.
I felt rather peaceful as we left the church of St Dionysios.
~~TRAVELLING TO THE CHURCH~~
Zakynthos is a small island. I thought it was quite easy to travel around with plenty of buses running here and there. There seemed to be good bus links to Zante town from other areas of the island. We travelled from the Laganas/Kalamaki region which isn't very far away. We could have reached the church by bus but because of the heat and also wanting to have more time to spend in the town rather than sitting on a bus we decided to order a taxi.
There were plenty of taxis to be seen (and hailed) in the town and we were fortunate enough to manage to secure one within minutes of deciding it was time to leave the town and return to our hotel.