Travelers arriving to the port of Zakynthos by ferry can’t miss the Church of Saint Dionysios, the largest church on the island, which dominates the view from the seaport. A fairly modern church, it was built in 1948. The only distinguishing thing about its exterior is its marvelous bell tower, otherwise it’s not a notable structure by itself.
By contrast, the inside of the church is truly wonderful. Every inch from the ceiling to the floors are covered with exceptional iconography depicting the life of Jesus Christ and his apostles. Natural light beams through the stained-glass windows. A small room next to the alter contains the tomb and body of Saint Dionysios. Although he died on December 17, 1622, his body, plus his vestments have not deteriorated.
While visitors can venerate the relics of the Saint, sometimes the tomb itself is impossible to open. It’s believed that when the tomb is sealed, Saint Dionysios, another of the “walking saints,” is out performing miracles to those who pray for peace and protection, appearing in dreams and visions. When the saint returns and the tomb opens, monks and priests claim to have found that his slippers have been worn thin through the soles, requiring regular replacement of the slippers, with their tattered precursors being cut up and the pieces and sold (actually usually gifted) at the churches gift shop.
In addition to being known as a wonderworker, Saint Dionysios is especially recognized as the saint of forgiveness. When Saint Dionysios was abbot of the monastery, a petitioner came banging on the gates and seeking refuge. The man confessed to Saint Dionysios that he had just committed a sin and murdered a man—Saint Dionysios’ only brother, Constantine. Instead of turning the man in for his crime, the saint consoled the man and hid him from those who were searching for him, seeking revenge for the murder. Legend has it that this man later repented, becoming a monk within the same monastery headed by the brother of his victim. Saint Dionysios provides a remarkable example of granting forgiveness to others—and ourselves, and to forgive any wrong doing done to us.Note: you’ll notice signs throughout the church saying “no photos or cameras allowed inside the church.”