Sunday, April 21, 2013

Monasteries in Chania, Crete

In the hills of the Akrotiri Peninsula (just north of the Chania Airport) are several ancient monasteries. We visited a few on our first day in Crete, almost right after we got off the airplane.

The monastic tradition in Crete has been a long one. For over a thousand years, hermits have been coming to the island to find seclusion in caves and groups of monks have set up communities in isolated nooks and crannies. Since Crete is rocky and mountainous, plenty of places were available. At its height, the island supported over 1000 monasteries. Now only about 40 are active though abandoned sites are everywhere. Akrotiri Penisula has over a dozen former monasteries and churches, a few of which are still active.

The first one we visited, and the most impressive, is Agia Triada Monastery, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It is unclear when the monastery began but the most ancient of the current buildings date back to the 17th century (the Venetian period). The main facade by the parking lot definitely looks Venetian. It also includes a mounting post which the children thought was cool.

Agia Triada Monastery, Akrotiri Peninsula

On the mounting block

Over the entrance

Through the main door is a courtyard with the monastery's church right in the middle. A sign in English warned visitors not to take pictures inside the church, so I am unable to show you the amazing iconostasis (the highly decorated partition between the main body of the church and the sanctuary) or the other beautiful Byzantine-style icons found throughout the small church.

The exterior of the church

The courtyard has many plants all over, as well as the doors to the monks' cells.

Monks' cells and gardens

A nice blend of practical fruit trees and beautiful flowers

Blooming like crazy

This monastery also has a museum with various treasures from the history of the place, from books to icons to sacred vessels. It also has medals awarded to the monks for supporting the resistance during World War II. At least, the guide book says all that is in the museum. We arrived on a Wednesday and the monastery museum is closed on Wednesdays. Which is a shame, because I wanted to buy some of their hand-made olive oil at the gift shop.

Museum building

We did spot the staircase on the right and go up to the roof of the church. There was nothing up there other than a nice view of the courtyard.

View of courtyard/front entrance from the church's roof

From here, we went up the hills to the Gouvernetou Monastery, which was also closed on Wednesdays.

Gouvernetou Monastery

A path from this monastery leads over the hills to some cave churches which will be next Sunday's church!

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