Churches and monasteries Print E-mail

churchesandmonasteries_1There are many important churches in the surroundings of Kamilari.

For those who are interested in visiting them, we give a short overview as far as we know on the names, location and meanings behind the churches (in alphabetical order).

Agios Antonios of Agiofarango

Agia Fotini
It's the church, that you pass, getting down from Phaistos, towards Mires-Timbaki road.

Agios Georgos tou Galata
(the one inside Agia Triada archaeological site)

Agios Georgios Theotokou
(Agios Georgios Falandras, belonging to Agios Ioannis - Falandra being the name of the area)

Agios Panteleïmonas (above Komos beach)
This church probably has one of the most beautiful panoramic views of all the surroundings. It's situated on a hill overlooking the Komos beach and archaeological site, as well as the Messara Bay and the Psiloritis summit.

Agios Pavlos (Saint Paul in Agios Ioannis)

It's a church far away from Kamilari on your way to Heraklion, between Agii Deka and Agia Varvara. There is a pilgrimage every year in May or June. People go there by foot from Mires and Timbaki.

Evangelistria - Kalamaki
It's the name of the church in the turn on your left about 500m before Kalamaki. It's built on top of old archaeological findings from the classic period.


It's the monastery between Timbaki and Mires, which is still active.



Monastery Agios Nikolaos – in Rouvas
You pass by the monastery, when you go walking up the Rouvas gorge, starting from Zaros lake.

Monastery Koudoumas

Monastery of Odigitria

Monastery of Valsamonero

Monastery of Vrontissi

Monastery of Odigitria Print E-mail

If you follow the road towards the south from Kamilari, after the villages of Sivas and Listaros, you will soon arrive at the monastery of Odigitria ("Our Lady (The Virgin Mary), Who Shows the Way"). It is a 15th-century fortress-type monastery (the base for this monastery was founded even in the Xth century, in 961, a couple of km before). It is still in activity, and can be visited freely. Father Parthenios, the monastery's abbot, will give you a warm welcome, and he will eloquently tell you the story of the monastery and the surrounding area. Efforts have been made in recent years to renovate the buildings within the monastery boundaries, which are dominated by Xopateras tower.

Xopateras was born in the now-derelict village of Manoussanas in 1788, and his real name was loannis Markakis. He was forced to leave the monastery because he stopped a Janissary who insulted his family, and the bishop defrocked him. As of then, he was called Xopateras (out-father) or Xopapas (out-priest), and became a legend after the drama that took place in the monastery with him as the hero. In February 1829, 3000 Turkish soldiers and riders were sent to exterminate him. The monastery is connected with a part of our history during the Turkish rule since it was a centre of the rebels. The destructive action of Xopateras, against the Turks is well known. They eventually got the best of him and succeeded in stopping one of Messara's bravest men. So, the monastery of Odigitria is a monastery of great importance and historical value.

It is placed in the west edge of the Asteroussia mountains at an altitude of 250 m. The monastery was surrounded by walls, parts of them still stand. A plaque on the western gate dates it from 1.568 A.D. Inside the monastery, you will also see an olive mill, an old oven, and other objects of monks' former daily life. The temple of the monastery is dedicated to the Birth of the Holy-Mother and to the Saint Apostles. Inside the temple there are valuable frescoes, icons of famous painters and iconostasis from a range of different periods.

If you like quietness and edge-of-the-world atmospheres, this place will leave you great memories. From the Xopateras tower (you should get up the tower) of the monastery, the nature all around will appear to you both: poor and strong. It's just an amazing view and place for everyone who likes the desert-dry landscapes. The silence might be broken just by the sound of the sheep bells ringing from the hills.

Monastery of Valsamonero Print E-mail

The Monastery of Valsamonero is 2 kilometres from the village of Vorizia (just follow the signs inside the village). The Monastery has been constructed during the early Venetian domination and shows a very beautiful and still original architecture; some inscriptions indicate the date of 1332.

The Northern nave of the church, dedicated to Virgin Mary, was constructed in early 14th and was the first building; later on, between 1400 and 1428 the Southern nave was added, dedicated to Agios Ioannis; in 1438 it was added the lateral nave, dedicated to Agios Fanourios (a Saint of great importance for the locals, celebrated on the 27th of August) and later on it has been constructed the outer narthex.


The church has wonderful wall paintings, excellent samples of the Byzantine painting of the Cretan school, which flourished during the Venetian domination; it is from this school that the famous Domenico Theotokopoulos ("El Greco") started his art. The wall paintings of the lateral nave of the church have been made by the famous Cretan painter and hagiographer Konstantinos Rikos. It was also a cultural center, including a religious school and a large library with also non-religious texts from Greek antiquity.

In 1947, after World War II, the Monastery has been restored under the supervision of the eminent Greek archaeologist N. Platon; the works of restoration are still in progress under the supervision of the Ephorate of Byzantine Monuments.

Sometimes there is an employee to keep it open, sometimes there is no one. Maybe there's a possibility to get the key from someone in the village, just ask in the village, if it is closed.

Monastery of Vrontissi Print E-mail

This is one of Crete's most famous monasteries. It played an important role during the years of the Cretan Renaissance, both in the letters and the arts, and, during the last centuries of Venetian rule, it was known for its many scholars, artists and venerable monks.

The names of famous manuscript copyists, painters and teachers are linked to the monastery and its surroundings. Michalis Damaskinos, Crete's most important Byzantine artist, painted here six of his masterpieces, and, according to tradition, El Greco himself spent some time as a student in the monastery's workshops.

The Vrontissi Monastery, 50 kilometres away from Heraklion, lies on the south slope of the Psiloritis Mountain, a little to the north-west of the village of Zaros in the direction of Vorizia. It is not known when exactly the monastery was founded and by whom, but it is generally believed it was founded during the Second Byzantine Period (tenth to thirteenth centuries).

Vrontissi Monastery reaches its highest cultural development under the Venetians. The Turkish invasion in 1669 marks the beginning of its decline and the monastery is violently attacked by the Turks during the periods of Cretan rebellion.

In spite of the fact that the walls of the monastery are practically completely destroyed, they still retain their fortress look and the church stands in the middle, with its double nave dedicated to Saint Anthony and to the Apostle Saint Thomas.

Outside the monastery walls, under everlasting plane-trees, there is a beautiful fountain, one of the island's most important outdoor sculptures, a unique heirloom of its time. It represents Adam and Eve in relief and water pours out from the mouths of three lions. The present-day entrance to the monastery is new, but one can still distinguish the old one with its impressive central arch.

The bell-tower is independent from the church and bears the influence of the catholic style of the Venetian architecture. In the interior of the church, along the walls of the double nave, some of the remarkable wall paintings are still visible: among them, the one showing Saint Simeon Theodochos holding the Holy Child is outstanding. Equally remarkable, among the many interesting paintings on the iconostasis, is the representation of the Vine by the artist Angelos, one of the most famous paintings of the Cretan School.

The disasters that hit the monastery, particularly in the 19th century, have destroyed a vast number of relics, leaving us only enough to realise the great role it played as one of leading centres during the Cretan Renaissance.


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