Always busy with locals and visitors, this church seem surprisingly small considering its importance: it contains the relics of St Spyridon, Corfu’s patron saint. It is richly decorated with icons, frescoes, silver and gilt ornaments, and houses the elaborate coffin of the saint.
Born on the island of Cyprus, St Spyridon was credited with many miracles before his death in AD 350. After the fall of Constantinople his remains were brought to Corfu in 1456 and a church was built to house them. It was later torn down and replaced with the present building in 1590. Its red-domed bell tower is the tallest on the island and a landmark of Corfu Town.
Set into its upper panels are scenes of the Annunciation, the Last Supper and the Transfiguration, as well as numerous religious figures. The stunning ceiling murals depict scenes from the life of St Spyridon. There are so many silver chandeliers, candelabras and incense burners that the church is said to contain the greatest weight of silver of any church in Greece, save the Panagia Evangelìstria on the island of Tinos, which claims first place.
The remains of the saint lie in an elaborate silver casket studded with a dozen enamel medallions, in a tiny chapel to the right of the altar. Spyridon is also the patron saint of sailors, protecting them from shipwrecks and helping them to safe harbour during storms. The faithful line up to kiss his coffin and leave notes with prayers for help.
Four times a year the coffin is opened to expose the saint’s mummified face, under glass. On his feet are embroidered slippers. Each year he receives a new pair as the old ones are said to show wear from his night-time strolls around town. On Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, 11 August and the first Sunday in November, the saint is paraded through town upright in his open casket. The four processions commemorate the four occasions when he saved the island from disasters: once from famine, twice from plague and once from Turkish invasion.
Open: daily dawn-dusk. Free entrance, no photography, dress appropriately.
To see in the City of Corfù: