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Saint Dionysus the Areopagite – the saint of the judges and solicitors

He was the first bishop of Athens during the apostolic times, (some later sources refer Ierotheos as the Athens’ first bishop and Dionysus as his successor). Saint Dionysus the Areopagite suffered his martyrdom (through sword) during the time of Domitian, while other sources place his martyrdom during the times of Trajan or Hadrian.

This is all the information we have on Saint Dionysus. Many Synaxaristes (Books with the lives of all Saints) offer a great deal of information of this important personality for Christianity, but are only based on tradition. So, a tradition has it that the day the Christ was crucified, the saint was in Helioupolis in Egypt with the philosopher Apollofanis (3rd century). When the sky darkened the saint cried : “Either nature is suffering or God”. Another source tell us that the saint offered himself his holy “kara”(head) to a faithful pilgrim, Katoula. According to a later tradition, though not totally acceptable, the saint was the founder of the Parisian Church during the times of Apostles.

Another tradition - specially loved by Church and is expressed in hagiography and hymnography – has it that Saint Dionysus was present in the Assumption of Theotokos, together with two other martyrs Ierotheos and Timothy, transferred by the clouds that took the Apostles. In the holy icons of the Assumption he is illustrated with the two other martyrs sitting behind the Apostles, while he is also mentioned in the hymns of the Assumption.

Many writings are attributed to Saint Dionysus, however contemporary research has proved them not genuine, (they were written by someone else and signed with the saint’s name in order to give them prestige). It concerns the following writings :

a. About Divine Sovereignty, b. About Church Sovereign, c. About Holy Names and d. About mystical Theology, as well as different letters. These mystical writings, also known as “pseudo-Dionysia”, were written in the end of 5th century and they influenced deeply the course of Theology through the centuries in the West and in the East. These writings together with the writings of the Saint Augustine and the Saint Gregory the Nazianzus formed the base of the renewal of theological movement.

Our Church celebrates the memory of Saint Dionysus the Areopagite, who is also the patron saint of Athens, in 3 October.

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