RELIGION IN GREECE
The whole world has been fascinated by the Ancient Greeks and their strong faith in the Twelve Olympians, a.k.a the Dodekatheon. Nevertheless, Greek people in the Modern Greek society have been famous for their deep belief and loyalty to the religion of Orthodoxy. According to the history of the religion, St. Paul the Apostle came to Greece in 49 AD and was the first to proselytize people in order to convert into Christianity. Nonetheless, the latter did not become an official religion until the rule of Constantine the Great, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Byzantine Empire. This decision was a critical point in the history of Early Christianity.
In 1054 AD, Christianity was divided in Eastern and Western church, the Orthodox and the Catholics, and this division is widely known as the “Schism”. The Greek Orthodox Church, which belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church, had to overcome many major obstacles, like the Ottoman Empire rule, but managed to preserve the Orthodox faith along with the Greek language and culture.
Today, it is considered that the 98% of the Greek population are Orthodox Christians and Greece is the only country in the world where an Eastern Orthodox Church is clearly recognized as a state religion.
RELIGION IN CORFU
Following their country in terms of religion, the Corfiots have demonstrated their faith in more ways than one. First of all, the majority of Corfu’s inhabitants are Orthodox Christians. An estimated percentage of 5% are Catholics, originated from Malta, England and Italy, but live in complete harmony with the Orthodox community.
Secondly, Corfu is famous all around the world for its Easter festivities since the Corfiots carry out annually their religious traditions with great respect and devotion. Thirdly, Corfu has more than 250 Orthodox churches and monasteries, situated all over the island. Last but not least, Corfu has her own Protector, Saint Spyridon the Keeper of the city, who saved the island from the plague and whose relics are well preserved and kept in the homonymous, magnificent church in the city centre.
CHURCHES AND MONASTERIES IN CORFU
Apart from the Saint Spyridon’s church which is a definite masterpiece, Corfu has several other famous churches and monasteries that definitely worth a visit. Some of these include:
The church is dedicated to Iason and Sosipatros, students of Saint Paul the Apostle, who brought Christianity to Corfu. Constructed in the XI century, this Byzantine style building is located in the area of Paleopolis, in the south of Corfu town.
Dedicated to Saint Nicholas, this is an excellent example of a one-aisle basilica style church. It is located in Corfu town, in the area of Kampielo.
This three aisled basilica church known as the Church of Virgin Mary of the foreigners was constructed in the 18th century. Priest Nicodimos of Epirus built the church in order to house refugees from Epirus, who came to island to protect themselves from the Ottoman Empire domination. It is located in Corfu town and more particularly in the Plakada square.
The metropolitan Church of Corfu was built in 1577 and is known as Virgin Mary Spileoitssa. It is dedicated to Panagia Spileotissa, Saint Vlasios and Saint Theodora. Saint Theodora’s relics are kept inside the church.
Apart from being Corfu’s trademark, it is one of the most beautiful monasteries on the island. It was meant to be a monastery for women and the present chapel was built in 1685. It is located in the area of Kanoni, right opposite from the famous Mouse Island.
This astonishing monastery of Virgin Mary was built in 1228 and is home to 8 orthodox monks. It is located on the top of a cape in Paleokastritsa, about 25 km from Corfu Town.
Pantocrator Monastery was built in the 17th century and the outer cells in the 19th century. This single nave Basilica is dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Christ and it is built on the highest peak of the island, on the mountain Pantocrator.
The monastery was built in 1706 and it is definitely one of the most beautiful and picturesque monasteries on the island. It is located in Kanoni, 10 minutes from Corfu town.
RELIGIOUS TOURS IN CORFU
KASSIOPI – PANTOCRATOR
We visit the village of Kassiopi, which is located in the north – eastern coast of Corfu. An ancient Orthodox church dedicated to Virgin Mary is located there and it is built right where a famous temple of Zeus used to be. Inside the church, one can pay his respects to the unique and miraculous “Virgin Unfading color” icon, which was responsible for a blind boy healing back in 1530.
Next, we visit the observation platform, which is set on the highest peak of the island at 907 meters, on the mountain Pantokrator. We also visit the men’s monastery of Christ Pantocrator the Almighty, where one can pray at the miraculous icon “Ascension”.
CHURCH OF SAINTS IASON AND SOSIPATROS – KANONI – KINOPIASTES – PALEOKASTRITSA
First, we visit the famous Byzantine church of the XI century of Iason and Sosipatros, who were two holy Apostles, disciples of Apostle Paul and the founders of Christianity in Corfu. Next, we visit the monastery of Kassopitra in Kanoni, where parts of relics of St. Gideon the Martyr, St. Arsenius of Cappadocia, St. Polycarp, St. Panteleiomon and St. Parfenios can be found. The archimandrite of the monastery was a student of Saint Paisios. Later on, we visit the monastery of Vlacherna and we go on a mini cruise to the Mouse Island in order to explore the Byzantine church of Christ Pantocrator the Almighty. Subsequently, we stop at the monastery of Saint Euphemia, which was founded in the 15th century. Inside the monastery, one can find and pay his respects at the ancient, miraculous icon of Saint Euphemia as well as see the relics of St. Euphemia, St. Trifon, St. Marina and St. Mavra. Heading a bit further from Corfu town, we next stop at the Monastery of Saint Paraskevi in the south part of the Corfu Island. There, the right hand of Saint Paraskevi is kept along with the relics of Saint Joseph of Crete and the ancient icon of Saint Paraskevi. Our excursion finishes with the visit at the astonishing monastery of Virgin Mary, which was built in 1228 on the top of a cape in the beautiful area of Paleokastritsa.
“ORTHODOX SHRINES OF CORFU”
Through this excursion we get to visit old monasteries, which have preserved all the traditions of the Corfiot monasticism; modesty, simplicity, hospitality and love for the people. First, we visit the monastery of Blessed Virgin Mary Kassopitra in the area of Kanoni. There, parts of relics of St. Gideon the Martyr, St. Arsenius of Cappadocia, St. Polycarp, St. Panteleiomon and St. Parfenios can be found. The archimandrite of the monastery from Athos was a student of Saint Paisios. Next, we visit the monastery of Aghia Paraskevi. There, her hand is preserved and the miraculous icon of the 14th century is kept too. The abbot of the monastery is an old man who has been living in the monastery for 54 years.
After that, we visit the monastery of Aghia Euphemia, where her icon has performed three miracles. The relics of Saint Mavra, Saint Marina, Saint Vlasia and many others’ are kept in the monastery. The latter is one of the oldest monasteries in Corfu. After Aghia Euphemia, we visit the monastery of Christ Pantocrator, which was founded by the famous old man, Sofronios. This is where “the miracle of the tree” happened. The miraculous image of the Mother of God “The Queen of Angels” is placed inside the monastery along with the relics of holy saints. The monastery produces biologically pure oil and it was recognized as the best oil in Europe several years ago.