Arkadi Monastery

The Arkadi Monastery in Rethymno prefecture is located near the village Amnatos, 23 kilometers east of Rethymno, on the northwestern slopes of Psiloritis and probably is the most sacred Cretan symbol for freedom.

Built at an altitude of 500 meters, on a fertile plateau with olive groves, vineyards, pines, cypress and oak trees, the Arkadi monastery is speculated to have been founded by the Emperor Arcadius in the 12th century, but the first complete fortress was created during the last Venetian period, around 1580. There is another version saying that its name comes from someone Arcadius, a monk who founded the monastery.

The Arkadi Monastery, also named Tsanli Manastır (= entitled bell), after the monks were given the right by the Turks to ring the bell, originally gained its fame mainly as a center of copying Greek manuscripts, the work that was shouldered upon the monks of the monastery. It was also known for the elaborated embroidered vestments that it created.

The Arkadi Monastery must be the most historic monastery of Crete and it has been designated by UNESCO as a European Freedom Monument. The rebel leaders were gathered here to coordinate the rebellion in 1866, when the Cretan Revolt was declared. The leader of the Turkish forces asked the abbot Gavriil Marinakis to turn the rebel board out, otherwise he would destroy the monastery, but the abbot refused. Mustafa Naili Pasha gathered 15,000 Turks with 30 cannons and attacked 964 people that were in the monastery (of which, 259 were warriors, monks and villagers and 705 were women and children). At dawn on November 9, while the Turks were demolishing the gate, the defenders of the Arkadi monastery, at Abbot Gavriil’s instigation, took the decision to self-sacrifice rather than to surrender to Turks by exploding the powder magazine along with the invaders and the besieged.

After the liberation of Crete, the monastery was rebuilt according to the original plans and had a fortress shape with massive external walls, influenced by the architecture of the first Renaissance period, Gothic and classic style and early Baroque. The most important building of all the buildings of the Arkadi monastery is the two-nave church, dedicated to Agios Konstandinos and Metamorfosi Sotiros (Transfiguration of the Savior). On the roofs of the auxiliary buildings there are ramparts, watchtowers and embrasures.

The ecclesiastical museum of Arkadi monastery displays findings from the Holocaust of Arkadi monastery, such as relics, weapons, vestments, Byzantine icons, ossuary of dead and many more. Around the Arkadi monastery there are many quaint chapels, while near the monastery begins the beautiful Arkadi gorge.

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