It started with curiosity about the red steeple we viewed from our bedroom window in Corfu. With a google search we discovered it was the Greek Orthodox Church of St Spyridon. (Who?) Another google search informed us that St Spyridon, an early bishop of the church, lived in Cyprus from 270-348. It’s a long story, but over a thousand years later, when the Turks took over Constantinople in 1453, a monk brought his remains to Corfu. The remains now reside in the same Church of St Spyridon that we see from our window.
We didn’t want to miss it, but we misunderstood a shopkeeper and thought the procession was in the evening. Bells rang on Palm Sunday morning, and we heard the bands playing. Late morning, we took off for our daily walk, down steps, and through the narrow pedestrian lanes of Old Town. In the distance we saw crowds and knew the procession had started without us!
However, we were totally confused about the connection of St Spyridon to the tradition of this 400 year-old procession. Here’s the story (again found in a google search): The plague came to Corfu in 1629, and people gathered at the Church of St Spyridon to pray to the saint for his protection. When only 60 people died from plague on the island, Corfiots attributed the miracle to the intercession of St Spyridon. He became the patron saint of the island. The next year, a procession was started on Palm Sunday and has continued every year since to honor the saint.
We had to shake our heads in wonder that we had any doubts about coming to Corfu for a month in “off-season.” The opportunity to have observed the Palm Sunday procession, an enduring tradition of almost 400 years, was a truly memorable travel experience.