Dionysius the Areopagite

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Dionysius the Areopagite
Hosios Loukas (diakonikon, arch) - Dionysius Areopagite.jpg
Fresco of Dionysius in Hosios Loukas monastery
Hieromartyr and Bishop of Athens
Bornc. 1st century AD
Diedc. 1st century AD
Venerated inCatholicism
Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Feast3 October
Thursday after fifth Sunday after feast of the Holy Cross (Armenian Apostolic Church)[1]
AttributesVested as a bishop, holding a Gospel Book
PatronageAthens, Crotone, Jerez de la Frontera and Ojén
Dionysiou Ta Sozomena Panta (1756)

Dionysius the Areopagite (/dəˈnɪsiəs/; Greek: Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀρεοπαγίτης Dionysios ho Areopagitēs) was an Athenian judge at the Areopagus Court in Athens, who lived in the first century. A convert to Christianity, he is venerated as a saint by multiple denominations.


As related in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17:34), he was converted to Christianity by the preaching of Paul the Apostle during the Areopagus sermon, according to Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, as quoted by Eusebius. He was one of the first Athenians to believe in Christ.

Tradition holds that earlier, at a young age, he found himself in Heliopolis of Egypt just at the time of Christ's crucifixion in Jerusalem. On that Great Friday, at the time of the crucifixion of Christ, according to the gospel, "From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land." (Matthew 27:45). The young boy, Dionysius was shocked by this paradoxical phenomenon and exclaimed: "God suffers or is always despondent" ("God suffers or is lost all"). He took care to note the day and hour of this supernatural event of the darkness of the Sun.

When Dionysius returned to Athens, he heard the preaching of the Apostle Paul in the Areopagus Hill in Athens, talking about that supernatural darkness during the Crucifixion of the Lord, dissolving any doubt about the validity of his new faith. He was baptized, with his family in 52 AD. His acceptance of Christ is referred to in Acts 17:34, "But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them."

Thus, when Dionysius heard Paul preach on Christ on the Areopagus Hill in Athens, he recalled this experience which reinforced his conviction that Paul was speaking the truth on Christ as the Savior of the World. Historical accounts wrote that when he learned that the Mother of Christ, Mary, lived in Jerusalem, he travelled to Jerusalem to meet her. From this meeting he said: "Her appearance, her features, her whole appearance testify that she is indeed Mother of God." In Jerusalem, he also discovered where Mary slept and departed this world to join her Son and her God. Then he wept sorely like the Apostles and other Church leaders torrents of tears and also attended Mary's funeral in Jerusalem. Dionysius suffered a Christian martyr's end by burning. His story was preserved by the early Christian historian, Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical history.

After his conversion, Dionysius became the first Bishop of Athens.[2] He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. He is the patron saint of Athens and is venerated as the protector of the Judges and the Judiciary. His memory is celebrated on October 3.[3]

Historic confusions[edit]

In the early sixth century, a series of writings of a mystical nature, employing Neoplatonic language to elucidate Christian theological and mystical ideas, was ascribed to the Areopagite.[4] They have long been recognized as pseudepigrapha, and their author is now called "Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite".

Dionysius has been misidentified with the martyr of Gaul, Dionysius, the first Bishop of Paris, Denis. However, this mistake by a ninth century writer is ignored and each saint is commemorated on his respective day.[5]

Modern references[edit]

In Athens there are two large churches bearing his name, one in Kolonaki on Skoufa Street, while the other is the Catholic Metropolis of Athens, on Panepistimiou Street. The pedestrian walkway around the Acropolis, which passes through the rock of the Areios Pagos, also bears his name.

Dionysius is the patron saint of the Gargaliani of Messenia, as well as in the village of Dionysi in the south of the prefecture of Heraklion. The village was named after him and is the only village of Crete with a church in honor of Saint Dionysios Areopagitis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Domar: the calendrical and liturgical cycle of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Theological Research Institute, 2002, p. 528.
  2. ^ Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiae III: iv
  3. ^ "Dionysios the Areopagite - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America". www.goarch.org. Retrieved 2018-10-04. Martyrologium Romanum, editio typica altera (Vatican City: Typis Vaticanis, 2004).
  4. ^ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the confusion between Dionysius and Pseudo-Dionysius
  5. ^ "Hieromartyr Dionysius of Paris, Bishop". oca.org. Retrieved 2015-10-16.


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
New creation or Hierotheos
Bishop of Athens Succeeded by