Monasteries

Almost every monastery in Crete has its own thrilling story to tell, adding a special chapter to the island’s own thrilling history and offering special reasons to get to know the place. Most of the monasteries were founded after 961 AD, when the Byzantine general and later emperor Nikiforos Fokas liberated Crete from the Arabs.

The liberation was followed by a period of particular cultural renaissance, which is reflected, among other things, in the religious monuments of the time, and continued at a more intense pace during the Venetian domination period. In addition to the worship needs of the faithful, the monasteries functioned in the long term as shelters for the organisation of military operations and as revolutionary centres. The Ottomans, aware of the monks’ support for the Christian warriors, razed, burned and looted many of them.

Don’t miss

  • The Arkadi Monastery, 23 km southeast of Rethymnon. At the most critical turning point of the Cretan Revolution, in November 1866, almost 1,000 people took refuge here and were closely besieged by the powerful troops of Mustafa Pasha. To avoid falling into the hands of the Ottomans, they made the heroic decision to blow up the monastery’s powder magazine in one of the most heroic acts of the revolutionary struggle.
  • In eastern Crete, Toplou Monastery, next to the Vai palm forest, is one of the most impressive fortress-type monasteries in Crete.
  • On the southern coast of the prefecture of Rethymnon, the Preveli Monastery, which includes two separate building complexes, is located in a beautiful location on the western slopes of the Great River (Megalos Potamos) and the palm forest of the lake.
  • The Varsamonero Monastery, 50 km southwest of Heraklion, of which only the church full of hagiographies with its peculiar architecture and excellent frescoes (late 14th-early 15th century) survives today, is one of the most remarkable religious monuments in Crete.
  • The Monastery of Agia Marina, south of the settlement of Voni in Heraklion, was built in 1901 by Ioannis Kaparounakis, on the ruins of an older one-room church of the 14th-15th century. The nunnery is popular for the large number of worshippers who flock (mostly pedestrians) every year on 17 July to honour its memory.
Agia Irini Monastery
Agia Irini Monastery
Agios Antonios Monastery in Arvi
Agios Antonios Monastery in Arvi
Agios Georgios Epanosifis Monastery
Agios Georgios Epanosifis Monastery
Agios Nikolaos Monastery in Zaros
Agios Nikolaos Monastery in Zaros
Apezanes Monastery
Apezanes Monastery
Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi Monastery