St. Spyridon Miracle in Corfu 1716

I am a Latin Catholic and I have recently read this story about the supposed miracle of St. Spyridon of Trimythous after the second siege of Corfu in 1716. It bothered me for obvious reasons. How can I understand this story without endangering my faith? In case you are unaware of this story, allow me to briefly summerise:

To celebrate a victory against the Turks who were trying to invade Corfu, the Venetian Andrea Pisani wanted to erect a marble, Latin altar in the local Greek Orthodox church. That night, he dreamt that St. Spyridon himself, the patron saint of Corfu, came to him and told him to “stop bothering him” and that putting up the Latin altar would “not be in his best interest” (I have heard various quotes for what St. Spyridon said). At any rate, Pisani, very upset about this, related this dream to the Latin cardinal who told him that the dream was demonic in origin and to continue building the altar. However, the day before the altar was to be built, St. Spyridon appeared and allegedly set the Venetians’ castle on fire, killing all of the Latins and foiling their plans.

Most accounts of this story are something like that, with other “miraculous” details. I already know the Orthodox perspective on this. What do Catholics (of any Church) think? How ought I to interpret this? Is it even a true story?

Ave Maria

Well, you are not required to believe the miracles of a church outside your own.

By the way, at the risk of provoking disbelief, I’ll tell you that Saints appearing in person is a quite common part of Orthodoxy even to the present day. There was a very pious Archbishop, Metropolitan Leonty, who is still allegedly seen behind the altar at St. Tikhon’s Monastery every now and again, in full Bishop’s vestments.

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If it’s true, it would fall into the category of “Unapproved Private Revelation” which Catholics are free to disbelieve and/or completely ignore.

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FYI- St. Spyridon is also a Catholic saint. He was at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea. I have never heard a story that he burned the Venetians trying to build an altar. The only thing I’ve heard is that he saved the island of Corfu from the Turks- and anything remotely relating to Venetians was completely absent from anything I’ve ever heard or seen in writing in any Orthodox source I’ve come across. He also performed a miracle during a drought.

Source: Been to Corfu, venerated his relics, heard what I was told by the locals, now have an icon, relic, and myrrh from his lamp.

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I struggle with these Anti-Latin polemics within Orthodoxy…“sends me to the growlery it does”, to lift a phrase from Dickens.

This seems to be one of those areas that shows how our Theology influences our Spirituality—thus whoever saw the vision was influenced by Orthodox Anti-Latin theology and the vision of St. Spyridon (which could have been demonic), is the fruit of such belief.

As a Catholic you are not required to believe in such things, and truly it would be antithetical and harmful spiritually.

This is also why in ascetical literature, especially in Orthodoxy, you will find that the beginner must be carefully instructed in the Faith so that as he progresses with the goal of theoria (vision of God) his contemplation is based on solid Orthodox theology. Truly, one way to tell if someone is deluded is if their vision runs contrary to the Faith, morals or phronema (mind) of the Church.

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I would point out that when John and James asked Jesus if they could call down fire from Heaven to destroy the Samaritan town, Jesus said NO. So it wouldn’t make sense for Spyridon to call down fire on the Venetian castle. At least that part is fully incompatible with Christianity.

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Yeah, and if the cardinal said the dream was demonic, it might very well have been demonic, and not St. Spyridon at all.

Or the whole thing might have been a coincidence and a castle happened to catch fire for some non-supernatural reason.

The fortress was struck by lightening, which hit the gun powder room. So there is no supernatural evidence from the event itself. There’s no other evidence that is not tainted with anti-Latin polemic that holds much water that it was a divine punishment for intending to build an altar.

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