Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos

St. Dionysios
Icon of Saint Dionysios provided by Theologic 

The Apolytikion of St. Dionysios 

Let us, the faithful, in one accord honor Dionysios, the offspring of Zakynthos, the Bishop of Aegina, and the protector of the Monastery of the Strophades.

Let us entreat him in sincerity: By your prayers save those who celebrate your memory and cry out to you: Glory to Christ, who has glorified you; glory to Him who has granted you to us as our unsleeping intercessor.

The Life of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos

Saint Dionysios, widely known for the act of forgiving his brother’s murderer and as the "Walking Saint," was born in 1547 on the Greek island of Zakynthos. During his childhood years, public education in Zakynthos did not exist. However, St. Dionysios was educated at a school run by Orthodox priests on the island, where he began to learn Greek, Italian, and Latin. Upon completing his primary school education, he continued with his studies at home with private religious tutors and theologians who instructed him further in language and theological studies. By the age of twenty-one, St. Dionysios not only was fluent in several languages, but he was known as a theological scholar by all. Therefore, upon his parents’ deaths, 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."