Villa Kynthia Panormos
Excursions in Rethymno
Museum of Eleftherna
It is the most famous historical monastery of Crete, located near Rethymno in a very impressive location that is 23 kilometers from the city of Rethymno. The Holy Monastery of Arkadi was founded in the 5th century AD during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius, in a strategic position, connecting the provinces of Rethymno, Mylopotamos and Amari. According to another version, it is said that this Monastery was founded around 110 AD by some a monk named Arcadius.
In the 16th century, i.e. during the period of the Venetian rule, Crete experienced great prosperity. Then the church of the monastery dedicated to Christ the Savior took its final form in Baroque style, while the first complete fortress form of the monastery was created in the last period of the Venetian rule around 1600 AD.
We learn the history of the monastery from travelers who visited it. It was very rich in the 18th century AD. It was famous for its excellent wine. His good library and the hospitality of the monks were also famous. The cells of the monastery faced an inner courtyard that imitated Western monastic architecture. In the northern part there were hospitality rooms. The monks’ cells were on the upper floor, those of the servants on the ground floor.
The granaries were also on the upper floor. The refectory was a large hall where the monks met for dinner. Near it was the kitchen, the oven, cellars where the flour was stored, etc. Before 1866 there was also a powder room at the south end, but later it was moved to the wine cellars for security reasons. The monastery prospered at that time. It is noteworthy that both the architectural layout and the function of the monasteries are reminiscent of Minoan palaces. In both, social, economic and religious activities are combined. Both have central courtyards for these activities.
After the occupation of Crete by the Turks in 1669, the gradual decline of the monastery began. In the 19th century. An Austrian traveler reports only 20 monks in the Monastery and a general abandonment.
The books of 500 classical authors were in poor condition and could no longer be read.
The historical importance of the Arkadiou Monastery lies in the role it played in the Cretan Revolution of 1866, when the Cretans seeking their freedom rebelled against the Turkish conquerors.
Then all the leaders of the revolution together with warriors gathered in Arkadi which was chosen because of its strategic location, in which women and children from the surrounding areas had also taken refuge to escape the massacres of the Turks.
The leader of the Turks, Ismail Pasha sent a message to the monks through the Bishop of Rethymno, asking them to force the revolutionary committee to leave the Monastery, or it would be destroyed. The head monk refused to obey.
Then the Turkish army, under the leadership of Mustafa Nailis Pasha who had meanwhile replaced Ismail Pasha, consisting of 6,000 infantry, 200 cavalry, 1,200 Albanians and supported by thirty cannons, marched against the Monastery and besieged it. Soon the 980 or so besieged realized that they had little hope of living by avoiding captivity with all its consequences. Nevertheless, they fought bravely. In fact, some, faced with this impasse, blew themselves up in the gunpowder storehouse of the monastery, dragging many Turks to their deaths.
The epilogue was written with 864 people killed, with 114 men women and children captured, while very few escaped.
Lies just north of the foothills of Psiloreitis mountain range. It is a pottery-making village, where you can buy anything from a tiny vase to one of the great “pithoi” or storage jars. Most of the potteries lie up the hill from the village in little stone-walled enclosures, each with a cylindrical kiln of plastered stone, crowned with a dome of firebricks. The deep-bellied “pithoi ” are direct descendants of the vessels made by the Minoans. In the village itself are colors washed houses crowded along narrow streets, where each bend reveals a new differently coloured perspective (sky-blue is most popular). There are handsome stone archways in the walls of the lanes and ancient frescoes in the church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos.