Sunday, May 12, 2013

Church of Saint Panteleimon, Spinalonga

The Church of Saint Panteleimon is a Greek Orthodox church on the island of Spinalonga (more about the island in tomorrow's post). The church is found in the former Turkish town and served the leper community that lived on the island from 1903 to 1957. The priest who served there was not a leper but he volunteered to live with these outcasts to serve them.

The church is a modest building.

St. Panteleimon Church, Spinalonga

The interior is not well lit but does contain many beautiful icons, including one of the patron saint.

St. Panteleimon

Christ the teacher?

The iconostasis (which separates the nave where the congregation worships from the sanctuary where the priest and altar are) is quite nice.


On one side of the church is a small podium for readings.

The prayer book was in Greek

Who was Saint Panteleimon?

Saint Panteleimon was born to a pagan father and a Christian mother in 275 A.D. in the city of Nicomedia (now part of Turkey). They named him Pantaleon, meaning he was like a lion in all things. His mother raised him in the Christian faith but he fell away when she died. He studied medicine under the noted physician Euphrosinos,  by whose influence Panteleimon became the physician of the Roman emperor Maximian. He returned to the faith under Saint Hermolaus, bishop of Nicomedia, who convinced him that Jesus Christ was the better healer since He was also a healer of souls. He changed his name to Panteleimon, which means "all-merciful." Using Jesus's name, Panteleimon healed a blind man, a miracle which convinced his father to convert to the Catholic faith. Other doctors jealous of his success denounced Panteleimon to then current emperor Diocletian. The emperor wanted to spare his life by convincing him to renounce his faith. Panteleimon did not. After several attempts to kill him (all foiled through miraculous means), he was finally beheaded after a voice from the sky called him by name to come to his holy reward.

The lives detailing these events are from a late date. While the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that they are therefore "valueless," nevertheless "the fact of the martyrdom itself seems to be proved by a veneration for which there is early testimony." So he was certainly a historical martyr even if the details of his life were exaggerated.

Panteleimon is venerated as a holy martyr in the East and the West. He is the patron of physicians and midwives.

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