Living in Crete

Religion and Culture


Since the early Christian years, Crete became a cradle of Orthodox Christianity. This is reflected on the hundreds of religious monuments on the island. Even the struggles for liberation, in most cases, started from the monastic communities.

Religious tradition is very intense in all areas of Crete and is present in everyday life of the Cretans. Crete has an autonomous Archbishopric, separate from the rest of Greece. With thousands of places of worship and dozens of monasteries that have played a special role in the consolidation of Christianity and the struggle against the invaders, Crete is an ideal religious and historic destination.

Since the early Christian times, when Paul the Apostle visited Crete and preached the new religion for two years, the Christian tradition developed through the centuries. Remote places of monastic self-exile, traces of early Christian basilicas, cavernous chapels and painted Byzantine churches are found everywhere on Crete.


The monastery of Kapsas is located in the southerneast corner of Crete, on the west side of the exit from the gorge of Pervolakia towards the sea. The building complex of the monastery develops incrementally due to the sloping ground of the steep slope, with the ¬cavernous church of St. John as the centre, which is formed externally as a twin-naved, barrel-vaulted church.  


The murals of this tiny arch-covered church have not been preserved well. Among the images that remain visible are scenes from the Christological cycle, the images of saints and a rare depiction of the Virgin Mary presenting Christ to John the Baptist as a pupil. 


The monastery of Toplou or the Akrotiriani, as it is called due to its position in the eastern corner of Crete, is one of the most renowned and important monasteries of the island. Important icons, ¬manuscripts, early printed books, and engravings that cover a lengthy period, from the 15th to the 19th centuries, are ¬displayed in the two adjacent spaces of the basement of the monastery that are arranged as a museum.


The Arkadi Monastery situated on the island of Crete doesn’t solely belong to this island; it belongs to Greece, Europe and to all five continents – to the whole world. It is one of the Eastern Orthodox Monasteries underlining the catholicity and universality of the Church. The Arkadi Monastery has a unique natural beauty, a prestigious history, numerous legends deeply rooted in the time, heirlooms and thesaurus richness.


The Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa is located 50km southeast of Heraklion, in a wooded area of North Dikti Range, next to the road leading to the Plateau of Lassithi.  The beautiful stone-built church of the monastery is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary (celebrates on September 8). Typical are the old frescoes of the 14th century, quite damaged by time.


The settlement of St. John the Evangelist, whose core was the former monastic complex of the monastery of St. John, is situated between the villages Kritsa and Kroustas. The oldest element of dating is the processional cross of the monastery which has been linked to a number of miracles and is now kept at the Historical Museum of Crete. 


The monastery, which celebrates on the Dormition of the Theotokos, is located on the north side of Mount Stavros, a steep elevation west of the archaeological area of Gournies. Its foundation date is unknown even though non-extant sources mention it already at the end of the 13th century, connecting it with the revolution of the Kallergi against the Venetians in 1299. 


Situated at Akrotiri, a location planted with olive groves, vineyards and cypress trees. Architecturally it is one of the most important examples of the Cretan Renaissance. During the Greek Liberation Revolution of 1821, the Ottomans burnt down the building, which was deserted for a few years, and during that period the documents kept in its archives were lost. The monastery was renovated in 1830.