Famous People  of Zakynthos
Dionysis Solomos, the famous Zakynthian poet, was inspired in Zakynthos, on the hillside of Lofos Strani, overlooking Zante Town, in 1823 to write what was to become the National Anthem of Greece, ‘Ode to Liberty’.

There are a number of other famous people in the history of Zante and Zakynthos today still has that same ability to inspire a whole new generation of people, drawn to the island from all over the world.


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Saint Dionisios

Saint Dennis, as he is known in English, is the Patron Saint of the island of Zakynthos. He was born in Zante in 1546 into the Venetian ruling class – but all reports suggest that from an early age his character was very kind and he refused all of the advantages of his class.

After the death of his parents, at the age of 20 years old, Saint Dennis donated his fortune to his brother and became a monk in the monastery of Strofades, in the south of the island of Zakynthos.

In 1577, Saint Dennis left Zante to become the Archbishop on Aegina island. Two years later health problems forced him to resign and return to his homeland, where he stayed as an abbot in the monastery of the Strofades.

One rainy night, a desperate man came to the monastery and asked for help. This man had just committed a murder. Saint Dennis discovered that this man had killed his own brother. Despite his personal sorrow, the monk provided a shelter to the murderer and even helped him to escape the island, saving his life in order to prevent another crime taking place. Local tradition suggests that the murderer later returned and became a monk in that same monastery.

The monk died in 1622, at the age of 75 and was buried in the church of Agios Georgios in the Strofades, where he was ordained a priest.

Three years later, when he was exhumed, his body was found intact and remains intact still today. The Saint’s body is displayed in the church of Saint Dennis in Zante Town, where many pilgrims come every year to pray.

The memory of Saint Dennis is celebrated on December 17th, the day of his death, and on August 24th, the day his body was transferred to Zakynthos town and laid in the church. Both celebrations are important days for the island with parades through the town of many Orthodox Priests and worshipers.

The story of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis in Zakynthos

Aristotle Onassis was one of the smartest businessmen in the history of Greece. The immigrant from Smyrni, made his first million at the age of 23.
Onassis’ advice on being successful: "To be successful, keep looking tanned, live in an elegant building (even if you're in the cellar), be seen in smart restaurants (even if you only nurse one drink) and if you borrow, borrow big."

Maria Callas, the famous opera singer, was considered the main love of his life – and during their time together they enjoyed a trip to Zante!

In 1962 on Easter Sunday, the yacht "Christina" docked in Zakynthos Harbor on its way back from the Strofades Islands, where Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis had spent Easter.

As soon as the famous duo set off for a walk in the streets of Zakynthos, the city’s residents immediately recognized them and applauded them through the streets of the town.

Onassis openly praised the courage of the Zakynthian people and the strong will they had displayed in restoring their everyday lives, following the earthquake in 1953, which had changed the face of Zakynthos forever. He also stressed that the island had all the pre-requisites necessary to become a major tourist destination. He promised that as soon as Zakynthos had developed an airport, that he would include the island within the Olympic airlines travel route.

Onassis was keen to experience Zakynthian night life while he was here. He and Callas headed South with their party of friends, to Argassi. They made a short stop at Mimosa Taverna before moving on to Granada Taverna. They watched the Zakynthian Sampsarellou Orchestra at the Granada Taverna, who played, among other melodies, the well- known “Mandolinata of Zakynthos”.

During her visit with Onassis, Maria Callas was overwhelmed by the exceptional artistic level of Zakynthian musical composition. She requested the Sampsorellou Orchestra to play “ Nabouko” of Verdi for a second time that evening.

Callas revealed that she was planning to revisit Zakynthos the same summer. Indeed, in the August of 1964, Onassis and Maria Callas did visit the island again.

On this second occasion they were accompanied by friends. On one evening, they chose to entertain their party at “Uncle Gianni’s Shack”, located on the promenade at Krioneri. After the devastating earthquake of 1953, several rough shacks had been established in Zakynthos Town, close to the sea.

According to press releases at the time, when Onassis and Callas appeared on the promenade at Krioneri, both the promenade and the roads were completely blocked due to the huge number of fans. The crowds that had gathered were so overwhelming, that two tourists had even ventured out to see what was going on in their night gowns! Later that evening, before the yatch Christina set sail for the northern shores of Zakynthos, Maria Callas signed an autograph for Uncle Gianni on a white linen towel.

Takis Feradouros, who was 18 years old, had been the waiter who served Onassis and Callas at the Granada Taverna in Argassi. When interviewed by Libro magazine, Mr. Takis was asked whether he could recall what Onassis, Callas and their company had eaten for dinner? “It was Easter” he explained. “They ordered lamb on the spit. They left a very good tip!” When asked by Libro Magazine just how much money Onassis had left him, Feradouros replied: “Personally for me, they left five thousand Greek Drachmas.”

According to the time, this meant a tip equal to five monthly salaries for a public employee! In the early 1960’s the average monthly salary for a public employee was one thousand Greek Drachmas.

When Feradouros was asked how the other customers had reacted to such exceptional visitors, he responded: ”With enthusiasm! They even stood up and applauded the party as they entered the taverna.” he explained.

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