Capital of Crete during
the Roman and Early Byzantine period, Gortys became the first Christian
community in Greece in the year 65 A.D., after St. Paul appointed
as bishop, with a mission to convert the whole of Crete.
In the 16th century the Cretan School
of painting, closely allied with the Byzantine tradition, produced numerous
painters of icons, both famous and unknown.
Crete is scattered with the ruins
of countless frescoed churches dating from 961, when the Byzantine recaptured
Crete from the Saracens, to 1204, when the island fell into the hands of
A presentation of the most important
churches and monasteries follows.
In Chania City
The chapel of Agion Anargiron
with old Byzantine frescoes. The Russo-Byzantine church of Agia Magdalini
in the Halepa quarter.
DISTRICT OF CHANIA
At Akrotiri northeast of the
city (16.5 km.), the Monastery of Agia Triada, with a fine gate
and church, built in 1632.
Near Agia Triada, the Monastery
of Gouverneto, founded in 1548, has a Renaissance style church whose
impressive facade is decorated with Venetian sculptures.
The Gonia Monastery (or Monastery
of Hodigitria), near the village of Kolimpari (24 km. west of Chania),
has a lovely view and dates since1662.
At Kato Episkopi, a village about
10 km. south of Kolimbari, the Rotonda of the Archangel Michael
with interesting mosaic floors and important frescoes by Byzantine artists
of the 12th century.
At the village of Alikianos
(13 km. southwest of Chania), the Byzantine church of St. George
with frescoes dated 1430.
At the village of Sougia on
the south coast of the District, there are some exquisite mosaics from
an early Christian 6th century basilica preserved in the village's modern
DISTRICT OF RETHIMNON
The Monastery of Arkadi (Moni
Arkadi,) (23 km. southeast of Rethimnon), built in the 16th century in
a wonderful natural setting. It is linked with memorable events in the
island's struggle against Turkish oppression. There is a tourist pavilion
outside the monastery.
The Monastery of Preveli
(36 km. south of Rethimnon). A historic monastery well worth visiting with
a small museum and beautiful view of the Libyan Sea (Liviko Pelagos).
The Cathedral of St. Minas
and the smaller church of Agios Minas beside it.
The church of St. Catherine,
containing icons by Michael Damaskinos, the most important representative
of the Cretan School.
DISTRICT OF HERAKLION
At Skotini about 1 km. northwest
of Fodele the little church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary
(Issodia tis Theotokou) built on the site of an older church of the 11th
or 12th century.
About 56 km. southwest of Heraklion
the Monastery of Vrondissi with a fountain carved in the relief
(15th century) at the entrance to the garden and a panoramic view.
Further southwest, near the village
of Vorizia ( 52 km. from Heraklion), the abandoned Monastery of Varsamoneri.
Here one can see the church of Agios Phanourios whose 15th century frescoes
are of great artistic and scientific value, a unique monument of the Cretan
At Gortys the three-apsed basilica
(6th century) dedicated to Near Krassi, west of Agios Nikolaos, the Monastery
of Kardiotissa, with its church consecrated to the Virgin of Kera.
DISTRICT OF LASSITHI
Some 9 km. from Agios Nikolaos before
the village of Kritsa, the church of Our Lady of Kera, filled with
frescoes from the 14th or 15th century and judge to be the finest in Crete.
East of Sitia (18 km. ), the Monastery
of Toplou or the Panayia (Virgin)
The Akrotiriani Monastery,
dating from the 1th century. The monastery contains an inscription from
the 2nd century B.C. and a famous 18th century icon by Ioannis Kornaros.
South of Sitia (41 km.), the Monastery of Kapsa.