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The Sunday of Thomas, Zakynthian traditions

This Sunday we celebrate Saint Thomas. Zakynthians still celebrating the Easter period St. Thomas is an important day for all.

It is also a day where Zakynthos celebrates St. Alypios, or as Zakynthians would say Agios Lipios. Both Saints being important subjects within the religious circles. First St. Thomas, according to Holy Scripture, the holy Apostle Thomas did not believe the reports of the other disciples about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
On the eighth day after the Resurrection, the Lord appeared to the Apostle Thomas and showed him His wounds. “My Lord and my God,” the Apostle cried out (John 20:28). From thereon Sunday would be ‘The Lord’s Day’, a day to celebrate Resurrection and a day for worship, even during Great Lent, Sunday would not be so strict and would allow certain leniency. ‘The Lord’s Day’ as we know it now is a day for church, relaxing and spending time with our loved ones.

A tradition that has been up held for generations, is that of the celebration of St. Alypios or as Zakynthians would say Agiou Lipiou. A church was built in his honour in the small village of Kalliteros, near Zakynthos town. The Church itself was founded in the 16th century, and was a token of honour in one of Dionysios Solomos’ readings, who is our National Poet and Zakynthian born. As for the church even today, the picturesque building stands within in the foothills above the olive groves. It is here that this Sunday a ‘panigiri’ celebration will take place as generations before have always done. Just who was St. Alypios?

Saint Alypius the Stylite was born in the city of Adrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, a Christian, was widowed early, and she sent her son to be educated by Bishop Theodore. She distributed her substance to the poor, then began to live an ascetic life near the church as a deaconess.
St Alypius, from his early years, wanted to devote his life to God and yearned for the solitary life, although Bishop Theodore would not give him permission to do so. Once, when St Alypius was accompanying his bishop to Constantinople, the holy Martyr Euphemia (September 16) appeared to him in a vision, summoning St Alypius to return to Adrianopolis and found a church in her name.
With contributions offered by believers in Adrianopolis, St Alypius did build a church in the name of the holy Martyr Euphemia, on the site of a dilapidated pagan temple infested by legions of devils. Beside the church, under the open sky, the saint erected a pillar over a pagan tomb. For fifty-three years St Alypius struggled upon the pillar, praying to God and teaching those who came to him.
The demons which infested the pagan cemetery fell upon the ascetic by night and pelted him with stones. St Alypius, wanted nothing to stand in the way of the attacks of the spirits of darkness, then even took down the boards that served him as a roof, protecting him from the rain and wind. In the face of the saint’s conquering steadfastness, the demons fled the place forever, which had been sanctified by his deed of voluntary martyrdom.
Stylite is a Greek word meaning column or pillar or pillar-saint. Agios Lipios was a type of Christian ascetic in the early days of the Byzantine Empire who lived on a pillar, preaching, fasting and praying. Stylites believed that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. The first stylite was probably Simeon Stylites the Elder who climbed a pillar in Syria in 423 and remained there until his death 37 years later.

As generations before Zakynthians will be preparing for the ‘Panιgiri’ Celebration, most will have prepared for a picnic under the olive trees, music and dance are just part of the celebration and of course tables of food laid upon their tables or on their picnic blankets as sounds of ‘Ela na se keraso’ ( come and try) are heard as they call to their friends. The celebration will always start with a church service and that’ll be around 11.00a.m then after song and dance tilllate in the afternoon.

For more information about the event please click on the link below and scroll down to Agios Lipios:-

About Louise Inzk

Louise is Australian born and has been a Greek citizen since 1991. She has deep cultural ties with the island, often writing about Zakynthian Traditions and Culture. She is also an active member of the Volunteer Group of Zakynthos, Giostra Di Zante and is a member of the women's choir "Rodambelos". Her love of the island and all it offers saw her joining the Zakynthos (Zante) Informer admin team in 2014.

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