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Sunday, 17 January 2010

St Anthony's (Ἀγιος Aντώνιος)

Here's an unusual food custom I came across in my reading and thought to share with you.

St Anthony was looked upon as a healer and was considered one of the first ascetics in Christianity. People presented him with bread in the shape of various parts of the body which were in need of healing. St Anthony cured their ailments with the power of faith.

Sfakia is a little too far away for me to get to right at this moment, so I leave you with a photograph of what the event looks like; the cave walls of the church are visible.

The custom of making human-shaped bread still survives in the region of Sfakia, Crete, where St Anthony is celebrated as a local saint.


A church is dedicated to him, built on the side of a cave, and a service takes place on the eve and the feast day of the saint, who is celebrated today on January the 17th. People bring breads shaped in human-like figurines, to be blessed at the liturgy, a tradition which is believed to be a continuation from antiquity.

(Photograph and information taken from 'The Roots of the Greeks: The Cretans', 2009, Pigasos Ekdotiki - Pegasus Publications, translated from the Greek)

For more bread-related customs pertaining to St Anthony, check out History of Greek food; Karen, and Peter give us the porkier side of St Anthony's life with pork-related food served on his feast day in Italy.

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