Monastery of Agia Irini

The Monastery of Agia Irini (St Irene) in Rethymno prefecture is located at the base of mountain Vrysina upon a cliff near the homonymous settlement, 5 km south of Rethymno.

One of the oldest monasteries in Crete, the Monastery of Agia Irini is considered to be a 10th century building, and it has been mentioned in the Venetian document dating to 1362. After the revolution of 1821, the monastery was almost abandoned and the brotherhood was limited to one or two monks. Later, in the late 19th century it was badly damaged by the Turks. The monastery was giving funds to the schools of Rethymno in the past.

From outside, the monastery complex seems like a fortress. The peculiarity of the monastery of Agia Irini is that the Katholikon (the main church) is not, as is customary, in the center of the whole complex, but completely out of it, on the highest southeastern point of the rock, near the cliff, suggesting that it was not initially designed as a monastery.

The Bishop Theodoros Tzedakis began the restoration of the monastery of Agia Irini in 1989. Upon the ruins of the old mill, the chapel of the holy martyrs Raphail, Nikolaos and Irini was founded, completed and consecrated in 1994. In the center of the yard there is a church of Agia Irini and, around it, there are the nuns’ cells and the small museum of the monastery. Outside the yard there is an old three-nave church of Agia Irina, Agia Aikaterini and Agia Eufimia.

The nuns, who now live in the Monastery of Agia Irini, are engaged in handicrafts and most of all in hagiography, weaving and embroidery art. The Ecclesiastical Museum of the monastery hosts vestments and memorabilia of the late Bishop Theodoros Tzedakis. The Monastery of Agia Irini was awarded in 1995 with the annual European Award “Europa Nostra” for conservation and renovation of architectural monuments.