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You are in:  Top  →  Europe  →  GREECE  →  Crete  →  RETHYMNON  →  Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi Monastery is the most famous historical monastery in Crete, situated near Rethymnon in a very spectacular location. It is said that the Byzantine emperor Arcadius founded it in the 5th century AD while others say the founder was a certain monk Arca
Arkadi Monastery

The 14th century AD is the most likely date for it's founding.

In the 16th century, which is one of great prosperity for Crete, the church of Arkadi Monastery was given its final form in the baroque style. It was dedicated to Christ the Saviour.

We learn the history of Arkadi from travellers who visited it. It was very wealthy in the 18th century AD. Its magazines were full and it was well known for its excellent wine. Its good library was also famous as well as the hospitality of the monks.

The cells faced an interior court imitating western monastery architecture. In the north section there were guest rooms.

The cells of the monks were in the upper storey, those of the servants in the ground floor. On the upper storey there were also the granaries. The dining hall was a large room where the monks met for supper. Near it there was the kitchen, the bakery, magazines where the flour was kept, etc.

Before 1866 there was also a gunpowder room in the south end, but this was later moved to the wine magazines for reasons of security.

This is a picture of great prosperity. It is noteworthy that both the architectural layout and the function of the monasteries are reminiscent of the Minoan palaces. In both, social, economic and religious activities are combined. Both have central courts for these activities.

The monastery of Arkadi was already in decline in the 19th century. An Austrian traveller mentions only 20 monks and a general abandonment. The books of 500 classical authors were in a deplorable condition and could no longer be read.

The historical importance of Arkadi lies in the role it played in the Cretan War of Independence. When the revolution was declared, in 1866, all the leaders met at Arkadi, which was chosen because of its strategic position. Ishmael Pasha sent a message to the monks with the bishop of Rethymnon that the revolutionary committee should leave or else the monastery would be destroyed.

The head monk refused to obey. Later the Turks besieged the monastery where many children and women had also gathered. Soon the besieged realized there was little hope but they fought bravely. Some, in fact, blew themselves up with gunpowder to avoid captivity. Just a few survived, 114 men and women were taken captives and 864 were killed.

The holocaust of Arkadi was a moral victory for the Cretans. It drew attention to Crete in the West and the way for the freedom of the island was thus paved.

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