The Holy Great-Martyr St Phanourios, the miracle worker, is commemorated by the Church on August 27 and is not simply honoured by the faithful on this date but on many occassions through a symbolic cake, called the "Phanouropita" which can be brought to the church, at any time, for a blessing.
Not much is known about St Phanourios's life because all evidence of his life has been destroyed with time. The only evidence that supports a historical date, relating to this saint, is documented in the book "Lives of the Saints", which testifies that his icon was discovered, in Rhodes, around 1500 AD. Some sources support the opinion that the icon was discovered in Cyprus and not in Rhodes.
In the church we have the tradition of saints for special purposes. St Phanourios assists the faithful by revealing a lost or hidden object or matter, directing and/or revealing actions that should be taken, restoring health and similar situations.
Discovery of the icon
The church has understood the life of this Saint through the discovery of his icon in Rhodes (or Cyprus). Around the original icon are 12 stations showing his martyric death. The portrayle of each illustration is as follows:
- 1. The saint is standing in front of a Roman magistrate and defending his Christian faith;
- 2. Soldiers beat the saint on the head and mouth with rocks to force him to deny his faith.
- 3. The saint remains patient which angers the soldiers. They are shown in this illustration, throwing him to the ground and beating him with sticks and clubs in a further attempt to force him to deny his faith.
- 4. The saint is now in prison. He is illustrated completely naked with the soldiers ripping his flesh apart with some sort of iron implement.
- 5. The saint is still in prison. In this station, he is shown praying to God, perhaps to give him strength to endure his tortures.
- 6. Next, the saint is standing in front of the Roman magistrate again defending his position. The expression on the face of the saint is calm.
- 7. In this image, it is obvious that the Roman magistrate has sentenced the saint to the executioners for remaining unmoved in Station 6. The saint is again shown naked with executioners torching (burning) his body.
- 8. At this station, the executioners are now using mechanical means to torture the saint. He appears tied to an apparatus that rotate to crush his bones. Though he would be truly suffering intensely for God, the look on his face is peaceful and patient.
- 12. This last scene is the glorification of the saint and end to his martyrdom. He is standing upright, over flames in a large kiln.
the Phanouropita cake
The custom of the Phanouropita cake is a Greek and Cypriot tradition, preserved in many regions of Greece and Cyprus and spread to the Greek people of the diaspora (Australia, USA, England etc). Though it is not a Holy Tradition, it has been welcomed and adopted formerly into the church as a blessing service, that take no more than 5 minutes to complete.
It is offered at vesper services and/or just before the liturgy finishes on the feast day of the saint on August 27. Many villages in Greece believe that they do this tradition to grant rest for the soul of the saints mother. The church does not formerly hold this position since there is no evidence on the saint's life to confirm if his mother indeed was a fornicator, as this 'heresay' suggests. Despite the church having made this statement on many occassions, the commong people within the church will still express the phrase, "May God grant rest to the soul of Saint Phanourios' mother.".
The pita is small and round, like a cake, and should be made using either 9 ingredients or 11. The basic ingredients include sifted flour, sugar, cinnamon and oil.