Religious Tourism In Crete – Discover The Monasteries And Churches In Crete
Crete is full of beautiful monasteries, chapels and churches, many of which are dilapidated and have magnificent wall paintings and icons dating from 961 up to 1204. There are about 300 churches in Crete, scattered around the island. It is one of the many reasons why the island is an ideal destination for alternative and religious tourism enthusiasts.
Throughout its long and interesting history, Crete has always been a place with intense spirituality and religiousness. The numerous religious monuments are based on the authentic traditional and cultural values and stand as lifeless transmitters of information.
The top Monasteries and Churches In Crete you can visit:
1. Religious Tourism – Churches and Monasteries In Chania
The Cathedral of Chania
This beautiful and majestic cathedral is located on a square east of Halidon Street in the Old Town of Chania, and is built around the 13th century. It has three sections that are dedicated successively to the Virgin, Saint Nicholas and the Three Hierarchs.
The Monastery of Chrissopigi
The monastery of Chrissopigi is located in a small alley right of the central road connecting Chania to Souda, three kilometers southeast of the city. Surrounded by a huge wall, the monastery looks like a huge castle. In the center is standing the main church, which has three arches and three partitions and is dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi (Life Giving Spring). The monastery has a workshop where icons are made and religious magazines are published. Important ecclesiastical documents and old manuscripts of immeasurable value are kept in the monastery library.
The Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity)
The Monastery of Agia Triada is located 15.5 km northwest of Chania, near the village of Kumara, in Akrotiri area, surrounded by a landscape of incredible natural beauty. The main church of the monastery has been built in a cross shape, and has a round dome and two side chapels which are dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi and to Saint John the Theologian.
The part that will mostly impress you is its facade, which is a true miracle. It is built of pink coral stones and has two large Doric columns and one small Corinthian, forming the entrance. A wonderful belfry with three bells stands on top of the facade.
The monastery was very important during the revolution against the Turks. When the church was destroyed by the occupiers, the monks rebuilt it. In 1833 the monastery housed an enclosed school that remained there for some time. You can visit its beautiful library which is like a small museum. You will see old vestments and rare books as well as wonderful pictures of the famous religious painter, Mercurius of Santorini.
The Monastery of Chrysoskalitissa
This beautiful whitewashed monastery was built on a rock at the point of an old monastic community on the west coast of Crete, 72 km west of Chania. The view from there is truly stunning. The main church has two temples, which are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity. You can combine your visit there with a swim at the amazing Elafonisi beach, only 6 km. from the Monastery.
The Chapel of St. Sophia
In the province of Kissamos in western Crete, on the way to Elafonisi, shortly after the village Topolia, you pass through a small tunnel. Just at the exit of the tunnel, up, at right, you will see the opening of a cave and an unusual metal star shining in the rays of the sun. It is the entrance to the cave of Agia Sophia. You go up several stairs, and then follow a small path. While approaching, you realize that the opening is large enough and you will see the roof of a small church on the left. It is the church of St. Sophia, located in the cave. It is a small, ordinary church without special architecture or paintings. But what makes it unique is its surrounding, with the large stalactites and stalagmites.
2. Religious Tourism – Churches and Monasteries In Rethymno
The Monastery of Preveli
The historic Preveli Monastery is located in the municipality of the southern coast of Rethymno and consists of building complexes separated each of 3 km. They stand near a bridge crossing the river Kourtaliotiko and is surrounded by lush vegetation. The monastery is divided in Lower and Upper. Inside the monastery visitors can admire the gold cross that has pieces of the True Cross and is considered miraculous by the faithful. During the German occupation offered shelter to many Greek fighters and foreign soldiers who took part in the Battle of Crete. The view from the monastery is unique as it is at a very great height and overlooks the endless Libyan. Do not forget to visit the amazing Preveli beach, only 5 minutes from the Monastery.
The Arkadi monastery is located 23 km from the town of Rethymno, on the southern coast of Crete, nearby the idyllic Preveli beach. It is the most famous and important monastery of the entire region Rethymno Crete. The main church is a temple standing in the middle of the yard. It has magnificent facade symbolizing a perfect example of Cretan Renaissance architecture.
It has a great reputation because of the historic event that took place in 1866 when the Turks sent thousands of soldiers to the island. When the Cretans heard of the arrival of the conquerors, hundreds of men, women and children took refuge in the monastery. However, this did not prevent the Turks to attack the monastery. To avoid the invaders and refusing to surrender, the Cretans set fire to a warehouse with gunpowder, which was blown up killing Greeks and Turks. From that day Arkadi became a token of the struggle against Turks and a proof of Cretan’s patriotism.
The Monastery of Attali
The Attali or Bali Monastery is located in the hills of Holy Obedience near Bali and is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, dated in the 14th century. Because of the terrain, the monastery is built on levels and had stables, mill, bakery, fountain, pottery workshop and impressive wall paintings.The church is not in the center of the monastery as usual, but on the northeast side of the complex and outside the fortress which protected it from pirates.
During the Ottoman rule the monastery suffered extensive damage, but managed to work again until 1980 when its maintenance started. In 1982 it reopened.
3. Religious Tourism – Churches and Monasteries In Heraklion
The Cathedral and Church of St. Minas
This large and impressive church is located on St. Catherine Square in the city of Heraklion and is one of the largest cathedrals in Greece. It has cross shape and four columns, two impressive towers and a magnificent dome. Next to it is the beautiful church of Agios Minas.
The Church of St. Marcus
The church of St. Marcus is in square Venizelos in Heraklion and is considered one of the largest churches in Greece. The Venetians built this impressive building in honor of St. Mark, their patron. The Turks turned it into a mosque and added a minaret. The church was restored and got its original form in 1956. Now is used as a Literary Institute and an exhibition of copies of Byzantine iconography. The church of St. Marcus is one of the most important destinations for Religious Tourism.
The Monastery of Vrontisi
This Monastery was built in the 16thcentury, 56 km. southwest of Heraklion city on the slope of Psiloritis. It is a unique attraction for its panoramic view stealing your breath and the magnificent carved fountain of the 15th century decorating the entrance.
4. Religious Tourism – Churches and Monasteries In Lasithi
The Monastery of Toplou
The impressive and fortified monastery of Toplou is located 16 kilometers northeast of Sitia and dates back to the 15th century. The monastery is famous for its wonderful icon of the 15th century, painted by John Cornaro, depicting 61 scenes from the Orthodox liturgy. The monastery of Toplou is also famous for its history, as it accepted various attacks by conquerors. That’s why it has an unusual architecture.
The walls are reinforced and compact and a large, heavy door has been placed at the entrance. Above the door there is a hole from which the monks threw boiling water and oil on the heads of the conquerors. The monastery also has a cannon (Toplou in Turkish means “with a cannon”).
During the Greek revolution in 1821, revolutionaries gathered there. For this reason the Turks hung 14 monks from the main gate. Today the monastery hosts a small museum with Byzantine icons and wall paintings.
The Monastery of Kapsa
The monastery is located on the southern coast of Crete, 41 km south of Sitia, southeast of Agios Nikolaos and 35 km east of Ierapetra. It was built on a high rock in the 15th century. In this monastery lived the monk Gerontoyannis, declared as a saint by the locals for the miracles he performed. The monk is buried in the monastery and the cave in which he was prayed accessible. As it is said, the two small dents in the cave were shaped by his knees, as he knelt and prayed constantly.
Regardless of which churches and monasteries, you will visit during your holidays in Crete, you will not only feel the devout atmosphere of the place, but you will also get in touch with the cultural tradition and long history of Crete.
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