Are patron saints the same idea as Greek gods under another pretext?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-21 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Culture, Mediaeval Greek, Modern Greek

Thanks to the other respondents. Patron saints share with the Ancient Greek gods the notion of domain of influence. They also, significantly, share the notion of patronage: elements of folk religion such as Votive offerings (Greek tamata), and theological notions such as Intercession of saints, are tied up with that understanding of how the Heavens work, as opposed to the Protestant notion of a direct relationship with God.

In Greek folk religion, there are several noticeable instances where a saint has been pressed into service to fill a niche left by a Greek god:

  • While in the West Saint Nicholas ended up as Santa Claus, he didn’t in the East (that became St Basil’s job). Instead, St Nicholas became the patron of sailors; per Wikipedia, “In centuries of Greek folklore, Nicholas was seen as “The Lord of the Sea”, often described by modern Greek scholars as a kind of Christianized version of Poseidon.”

Oh dear. Look what else I found on Wikipedia.

The modern city of Demre, Turkey is built near the ruins of the saint’s home town of ancient Myra, and attracts many Russian tourists as St. Nicholas is a very popular Orthodox saint. Restoration of Saint Nicholas’ original church is currently underway, with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2007 permitting Divine Liturgy to be celebrated at the site, and contributing 40,000 Turkish lira to the project.

A solemn bronze statue of the saint by Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky was donated by the Russian government in 2000, and was given a prominent place in the square fronting the medieval Church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Süleyman Topçu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted an image more recognisable to foreign visitors. Protests from the Russian government against this were successful, and the bronze statue was returned (albeit without its original high pedestal) to a corner nearer the church.

There’d be a fair few Orthodox pilgrims rather confused to see a jolly St Basil at St Nicholas’ church.

  • St Elias (= Prophet Elijah) often has chapels built on mountain tops, just as temples to the Sun God, Helios, were built on mountain tops. Elias and Helios sound almost the same (/iˈlias/, /ˈilios/), and… well, you tell me:

  • Offerings to St Barbara may be a continuation of offerings left to Hecate: Saint Barbara
Answered 2017-07-21 · Upvoted by

Chad Turner, Classics PhD, specializing in Greek tragedy and Greek/Roman mythology

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