Sunday, April 28, 2013

Panagia Arkoudiotissa, Crete

Down a path from the Gouverneto Monastery is a handful of other monasteries. At the very end of the path is the Katholiko Monastery, which is the ruins of a nearly sea-side monastery that was overrun by pirates in the 17th century. The monks moved up into the hills to these other monasteries. We never made it as far as Katholiko but we did find some other interesting things on the way.

The path wasn't too steep and was well built with stones, winding around the hillside providing wonderful views of the mountainous terrain.

L and Mommy on their way

J on a less clear part of the path

Mediterranean in the distance!

Seeing a little structure!

If we had taken a different path, we'd have come to the ruins of the Saint Anthony Monastery. It was visible across the valley and looked like a cozy spot. Here's a closer look, thanks to our camera's zoom.

St. Anthony Monastery

Nearby sheep/goat pens?

Our guide book said the walk to the end of the trail would take half an hour. We weren't brave enough to go all the way. Walking down the hill might have been okay for the kids, but coming back up would be a lot tougher and they are getting a little too big to be carried all that way. At one point, the children and Mommy started back. I was to walk another five or ten minutes to see if I could make it. About two minutes further down, I came across a cave church which I thought was the bottom of the hill. Consulting a map later, it's clear I didn't make it all the way to Katholiko Monastery.

What I did find was a cave church called Panagia Arkoudiotissa. A bit of construction outside the cave hinted at the small community that must have lived there a long time ago.

Some walls from the old monastery

The other side of the walls

A larger room for gatherings or meals?

A path led clearly to the cave, which still has a small chapel that looks to be in use.

Path to the cave

Entrance to the cave

No one was at home, though they must have been here recently

A bell for the chapel

The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. A feast is held on February 2 each year, with locals spending the night in the cave.

The cave stretches back quite a bit. Natural light fills the first large chamber, which includes many rock formations. The great stalagmite in the center of the cave is, according to legend, Artemis transformed into a bear. So perhaps there was sacred use of the cave even in pagan antiquity! Another legend says that a bear lived in the cave and the local monks, being very thirsty, prayed to the Virgin Mary for a solution. The bear was turned to stone and they could use the dripping waters and pools in the cave.

The bear/goddess leans on some human-hewn rocks

The big stalagmite

Another formation

The cave went deeper than I wanted to go without a flashlight

I soon was headed back up the path, though I didn't catch up to the family till they were already at the top relaxing with a bottle of water. We were soon back in our car driving down the curvy, mostly paved roads to our hotel.

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