Agios Dionisios (St.Denis) Church
The locals are very fond of St.Denis as are the locals in Corfu to St. Spyridona and they mention him often in their daily lives. You will witness this for yourself if you happen to be on the island on either December 17th or August 24th when for three daSt.Denis church is the largest church in Zakynthos Town, the foundation of which began back in 1925 and was finally completed in 1948, only a few years before the devastating earthquake of 1953. It is one of the three buildings that did not suffer any damage at all by the earthquake, something that is considered as a very significant by the locals.
St.Denis was born in Zakynthos in 1547 and was the son of an aristocratic family, from an early age he was given a christian upbringing, he was very well educated and spoke Italian as well as Ancient Greek and Latin. At the age of 20, after the death of both his parents he donated his entire estate to his brother and decided to join a monastery a few miles off the coast of Zakynthos. After living here for a while he was encourage by his fellow monks to be ordained as a priest, that of which he did and later became the Archbishop of Aigina, he spent the last years of his life at the Monastery of the Virgin Anaforitria in Zakynthos where he passed away at the age of 75 on the 17th November 1624. It was here at the Monastery Anafonitria that St.Denis lied for the first time, by hiding his brothers murderer and then helping him escape the island and flee to Kefalonia.
The church of St.Denis is very impressive with a spectacular wooden temple, marble columns, large chandeliers, icons, stained glass windows, red velvet seats and gold plated detail, it is here where the relics of St.Denis are kept in a silver carved casket. The casket is usually kept closed except from the summer months where depending on the attendance of the congregation it is sometimes opened. The church overlooks the harbour and the bell tower - that of which resembles the bell tower of San Marco Church in Venice and exceeds 40 feet is the the landmark of the city.
There are two processions of the sacred relics of the Saint which are probably the most important events on the island. The first takes place on the 24th August which celebrates the day on which the relics where transported from the monastery in Strofades (it was here that St.Denis requested his remains be kept after his death) and the second procession takes place on the 17th December, the day on which he passed away. Both celebrations last for three days, the first being from the 23rd of August to the 26th, and the second being from the 16th December to the 19th. You will see locals of all ages honouring the Saint by worship his relics and celebrating during this festival, the festival itself attracts thousands of pilgrims who flock to the island in order to pay their respects.