Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Diocese of Syra

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DIOCESE OF SYRA (SYRENSIS).

A Latin diocese, suffragan of Naxos, comprising the Island of Syra of the Cyclades in the Ægean Sea. The island has an area of about thirty-one square miles and 32,000 inhabitants; it was first called Syria and also Syros, and appears to have been inhabited by the Phoenicians. It was the country of the swineherd Eumaeus who described it at length (Odyssey, XV, 403 sq.); and of the philosopher Pherecydes, the teacher of Pythagoras. It possessed two leading cities, Syros (now the modern Hermupolis) and another city on the western coast where stands to-day Maria della Grazia. The island played no rôle in antiquity nor in the Christian epoch; it was not even a diocese, at a time when the smallest island possessed its bishop. Devastated several times during the Middle Ages with the other Cyclades by the Sicilians, Arabs, Turks, and Venetians, it was definitively conquered by these last in 1207. They kept it until 1522 when the corsair Barbarossa took possession of it for the Turks; after 1821 it was annexed to the Hellenic kingdom. The Venetians established there a Latin bishopric which was subject to the Archbishopric of Athens until 1525, afterwards to that of Naxos. The list of titulars may be found in Le Quien (Oriens christianus, III, 865-868) and in Eubel (Hierarchia catholica medii aevi, I, 492; II, 267; III, 324). The most celebrated among them is the Venerable John Andrew Carga, strangled by the Turks in 1617 for having refused to become a Mussulman (Pétridès in "Revue de l'Orient chrétien", V, 407-422). From the occupation of the island by the Turks in the sixteenth century, the Greeks established there a metropolitan: Joseph (Le Quien, op. cit., II, 233) is the earliest known, with Symeon who died in 1594 (Ampelas, "Histoire de Syros", 411) and Ignatius in 1596 (Miklosich and Mueller, "Acta patriarchatus constantinopolitani", V, 461). The island became for the most part Catholic (Ricaut, "Histoire de l'estat présent de l"Eglise grecque", 361; Hilaire de Barenton, "La France Catholique en Orient", 171-173).

Syra took no part in the Greek revolt of 1821; but here the refugees flocked and founded the town of Hermupolis, which rapidly became the leading port of Greece. Since 1870 the ports of Piraeus and Patras have greatly injured it from a commercial standpoint. The diocese numbers 8000 Catholics, 21 secular priests and 8 regulars, 7 parishes, 7 churches with a resident priest, 3 without a priest, and 56 chapels. The Capuchins and Jesuits have each an establishment; the Sisters of Charity, 2 houses, one of which is a hospital; the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition have a boarding-school.

SMITH, Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog., s.v.; LACROIX, Iles de la Grece (Paris, 1853), 447-50; MANDAT-GRANCEY, Aux pays d'Homere (Paris, 1904), 78-92; Missiones catholicae (Rome, 1907), 150; AMPELAS, Hist. of Syros (Hermupolis, 1874), in Greek.

S. VAILHÉ