Christian shrines are the greatest pride and joy of the island. In Crete, Christianity was preached by the Apostle Paul with his disciple Titus in the Ist century. The latter became later the first bishop of the island. That is, the history of Christianity in Crete lasts two millennia. There are here many historical monuments and Christian shrines from different times. Unfortunately, the shrines of Crete are little known in Russia, therefore we intend at least to assist you in knowledge of a small part of them.
Monastery of the Panagia Phaneromeni
It is an active monastery, located around a pristine nature. It is considered to be one of the most important pilgrimage places in eastern Crete. The exact date of its founding is unknown, but it is believed that the monastery existed already in 1282, because rebels gathered there at that time to discuss plans for their struggle against the Venetian invaders. During the occupation there was a school in the monastery, which is still operating today. It is believed that the present monastic complex dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries. It was built on a high stony slope in front of a huge rock, in the cave of which is the main temple of the monastery. The monastic complex consists of four groups of buildings, united around a narrow courtyard and designed for defense. It is undoubtedly an excellent example of the development of the monastic architecture in Crete in the 19th century.
On August 15, in the monastery is celebrated the Assumption of the Virgin. Every year, especially on holidays, many guests come to it. The Panagia Phaneromeni is miraculous, therefore it is widely known on the island, and in the entire Lassithi regional unit. Therefore, in August, the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the monastery becomes one of the most popular destinations for pilgrims in eastern Crete; and the feast of the Virgin, on the 15th of September, is a unique event. Every day many guests arrive there to pray on the mountain to the Mother of God.
Monastery of St. George
On the road Iraklion-Agios Nikolaos in the Selinari gorge, where the mountain range, stretching from the peak of Selena to the Cretan Sea, suddenly abruptly ends, lays the functioning monastery of St. George. The Church of St. George Selinaris is a small one-nave temple of the 16th century with a lancet arch, decorated with modern murals. /According to a legend, three brothers fled from the island of Rhodes, conquered by the Turks in 1552, and settled in the village Vrachasion. One of them, Nikolaos, took monastic vows and become hermit at the Selinaris gorge. It is believed that he was the founder of a small church of St. George. The monk lived in a cave on the opposite slope of the mountain, where he died. During his lifetime, he carved his own grave, the traces of which are at the place where later a large cross was erected that was visible from the courtyard of the church. It is not known how this place was used in the years of Ottoman domination, but the small cells around the temple indicate that there was a certain community.
Work on construction of buildings and bringing the surrounding in order, intended to facilitate access of pilgrims, started in 1934. Today, the newly painted church with the chapel is part of the modern monastery. In places reserved for pilgrims, there is a water source.
The Toplou monastery, called also the Theotokos of Akrotiri, is one of the most significant and beautiful monasteries on the island. The monastery is impressive already from afar, resembling a small fortress, surrounded by a 10-meter wall and with an impressive bell tower of 36 yards in height, looking unassailable and lonely. It is located in an almost deserted area and is adjacent only to giant turbines of a wind farm. It’s because the other temples in the surrounding were destroyed during pirate raids, and Toplou himself was seriously injured. After prolonged restorations, it finally became available for visiting. In addition to services, the monks here are engaged in more worldly affairs. At the monastery, there is a site with vineyards and olive trees. The clergy work hard for a good harvest and then process olive oil, and a very tasty wine that is sold. The paid money is used to maintain the monastery.
A few years ago it was completely isolated, because to reach it was possible only by sea. This easternmost monastic center on the southern coast of Crete is built on a steep bank close to steep rocks. The construction of the monastery continued uninterrupted from the Byzantine time until the last century.
Yannis Vitsentzos or Gerontoyannis was born in 1799 in dilapidated at the time Little Kapsa monastery of the honest John the Baptist. The newest history of the monastery begins with the decision to restore it in 1841 on the Kapsa wasteland. Saint Gerontoyannis lived for 15 years in a cave located to the north-west of the church. Old cells were given to pilgrims, many of whom, including novices, wanted to become hermits, living next to him. This was the reason for the restoration of the monastery, its old buildings and the erection of new ones.
The saint lived very ascetic, praying and fasting. The Lord generously rewarded him: the monk daily performed miraculous acts to all those who came to him with faith in God. Driven by an endless love for the sinful person, following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gerontoyannis, preserving pacification of his soul, advised, strengthened and healed all those in need, returning them with the help of the Lord their forces of soul and body. It was well known to all that salt water will be drinkable, if the saint cross it. The cassock thrown into the sea was becoming a raft, on which he often crossed the sea and without challenges reached Koufonisi an island located far enough from the monastery.
On August 9, 1874, in the church of the Honorable John the Baptist, in the southwestern corner, in a rocky grave, he was buried by his grandson, who later became hegumen of the monastery, Archimandrite Joseph Gerondakis. After it, the holy relics along with his skull were reburied in a silver sarcophagus in a prominent place in the temple and exuded a fragrance. On November 16, 2004, he was ranked among the saints of the Orthodox Church by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Today the monastery is active.