Arkadi - The historic monastery of Crete
The Arkadi Monastery is one of the most important and historic monasteries in Crete, and was mentioned as early as the 16th century as an important cultural centre.
Arkadi Monastery Map
It was sacked in 1646 during the Turkish conquest of the island, but was restored and continued to flourish, as is evident in its architecture, particularly the facade of the church, considered one of the best examples of what is known as the Cretan Renaissance.
Other architectural elements include the Corinthian columns, curved arches and pinnacles.
It was not, however, for its architecture, that Arkadi has gone down in history, nor for its religious or cultural importance.
Above all, it has been associated with one of the most heroic and tragic events in the history of Crete.
In November 1866, 700 women, 287 men (including 25 volunteers from mainland Greece) and 45 monks took refuge in the monastery.
On November 7, Turkish troops, headed by Mustafa Naili Giritli pasha, attached the monastery. The besieged, who were inadequately armed, could not hold back the Turks, who managed to break into the main entrance the next day.
The abbot, Gavriil Marinakis, was killed in the attack. However, a guerilla fighter, Costas Yiamboudakis, set fire to the powder magazine as the Turks entered the western gate, blowing up not only the besieged, but thousands of the Ottoman attackers as well.
This heroic act by the besieged of Arkadi shook public opinion around the world and played an important part in the gradual change of opinion among the European Great Powers regarding the Cretan question.
Today the monastery also houses a museum in the southern wing. Its collection consists of post-Byzantine icons, ecclesiastical vestments and implements, weapons, manuscripts, personal objects that belonged to the Abbot Gavriil and other religious and historic relics.
In a place of honor is the banner from the Arkadi holocaust, which depicts the Transfiguration of Christ (returned to the monastery in 1870 by the Turkish officer who had taken it after the monastery was blown up). Another unique exhibit is the section of the carved altar screen of the church depicting the Resurrection, the only piece that survived the explosion and fire.
Examples of sacerdotal vestments, produced by the important embroidery centre at the monastery during the 17th century, are also displayed. A particularly outstanding piece with gold embroidery, dates to 1681 and depicts Christ and the twelve disciples.
Finally, among the weapons used during the struggle, including flintlock rifles, long-barreled pistols and pistols, there are Ottoman firearms such as the Turkish musket, as well as weapons that were given the surnames of benefactors acting on the rebel’s behalf aroad, such as Rodokanakis and Bernadakis, who sent them in aid of their beleaguered countrymen.
Monastery of Arkadi
Opening Hours: Summer Daily: 08:00 – 20:00 Winter Daily: 09:00 – 18:00
Admission: 2 €
Bear in mind that when visiting an inhabited monastery your clothing should be appropriate; shoulders and knees should be covered.