Church/ Monastery in Rethymnon

According to Michael Llewellyn Smith in his wonderful 1965 book ‘The Great Island’, Crete has in excess of 4,000 churches or chapels, scattered across its length and breadth. An incredible figure for an island which is only the fifth largest in the Mediterranean, but a thorough tour of the nomos of Rethymnon, may leave you wondering of there aren’t at least as many here, alone. St. Paul visited the island in the first century AD, and was not impressed, writing an epistle to Bishop Titus, that the 'Cretans are all liars' and 'sloth bellies'. Under both Venetian and Ottoman occupation, the Orthodox Christians, tended to live away from the coastal plains, and in the more mountainous regions.

Cretan icon painting was much sought after, especially in Venice, so a fair number of this school ended up at quite an early age in that city, and of course, the most famous of them all, El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopulos), earned his nickname by travelling to Spain. Look out for the inscription NIΨONANOMHMATAMHMONANOΨIN. This means 'clean not just your face, but your sins' and is palindromic, i.e. it reads the same left to right as right to left. Whether one has religious beliefs or not, it’s well worth visiting one or more of those listed below; if for nothing else, the sense of the spiritual, which may well transcend the religious.


The Akardi monastery has a special place in Cretan memory. It was here, in 1866, a full 32 years before Crete was finally free of the Ottoman yolk, that close to a thousand Greeks were trapped inside.
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Close to the village of Pangalochori, in the east of the province, Arsani monastery’s foundations can be traced back to the end of the second Byzantine period (probably the 12th century BC).
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There are two monasteries here, but the lower (Kato) one lies in ruins, and may not be accessible at all. The “back” (Piso) - quite often known as the upper monastery - is a beautiful building within a stunning setting.
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On the outskirts of the village, Aghia Anna’s frescoes date back to the early 13th century - it is dated 6733, in the old Byzantine calendar, which would place it at 1225 - and are said to be the oldest examples on the island.
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A 15th century church stands here, with a number of blind arches, that is to say windows and doors which were deliberately bricked in.
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A cross shaped chapel, originally belonging to the Chortatzis’ family, who are depicted on a fresco, dating back to the early 13th century.
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A domed basilica, with a coat of arms of the famous Kallerghis family above the doorway.
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A superb church, dedicated to the assumption of the virgin, with frescoed wall, and floor mosaics, built on the site of an original 6th century basillica.
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A church said to date back to the 5th century can be found at Panormos, on the north coast.
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Other Activities for Rethymnon
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