A visit to Arkadi Monastery, in Rethymno, is a must destination that nobody should miss during a trip to Crete Island. A gorgeous spot but then so profoundly set apart with the Cretan battle for independence. Arkadi Monastery is a useful place to understand the history and tradition of Crete.
Arkadi is certainly the most historic monastery in the Crete island and UNESCO has designated it as a European Monument of Freedom. It is the holiest symbol of the Cretan fight for Freedom against the Turkish occupation, and the place where the tragic holocaust of 1866 took place with the explosion of the powder arsenal. This led to the liberation of Crete in 1898. In 1866, after its destruction, the Monastery was completely rebuilt and restored to its previous form.
The Arkadi Monastery is situated in the north-western region of Psiloritis mountain, roughly 23 km from the city of Rethymnon. Tradition relates the Arkadi with the Byzantine king Arkadios (fifth century AD), the scientific research has demonstrated that both the establishment and the name of the religious community ought to be credited to a specific priest named Arkadios. As per an engraving found in situ the primary sanctuary – the Katholikon – was established in 1587 on the ruins of a previous church.
Arkadi Monastery History
This monastery community had a significant influence on Cretan history during the struggle against Turkish mastery of the island. In 1866, the religious community came to the notification of the Turkish Pasha as many renegades were shielding there and in the harsh crevasses and slopes close by. Subsequently, the religious community turned into a symbol of the uprising and a place of refuge for Cretans escaping the Turks.
A Turkish squad of 1500 soldiers assaulted the 950 Cretans who were shielding in the Arkadi community grounds.
On 8 November 1866, following three days of fights, giving up was unavoidable, Kostis Yamboudakes ordered, to explode the black powder arsenal, and all double-crossers and regular people who had been kept there were buried inside, alongside the Turks soldiers. In this manner the Arkadi monastery turned into an everlasting symbol of freedom and the eighth of November became the day of honouring the Cretan revolution.
The exhibition of the Arkadi Monastery hosts an exceptional collection of pictures from the post-Byzantine period, progressive garments, weapons, written by hand codes and, surprisingly, individual assets of the Abbot Gabriel. A significant show is additionally the wood-cut iconostasi of the Katholikon with a portrayal of the Resurrection, the main part that endures the copying of the cloister by the Turks. The standard of the holocaust bearing the portrayal of the Transfiguration of Christ is kept in an exceptional showcase. Finally, there is a broad assortment of weapons that incorporates, notwithstanding the notable Kariophili and other Turkish army weapons like the Sisan.
An important collection of clerical and historical relics are on display today in the Arkadi Museum. In their larger part, they are dated before the obliteration of 1866. Among them are Post-Byzantine symbols, original copies and clerical garbs, as well as weapons and the flag of the revolution period.
The Arkadi Monastery Today
In Arkadi Monastery today there are still preachers, monks and several nuns living at the abbey; they deal with the congregation and the buildings as well as the little exhibition centre where bones from the religious community and the congregation are kept. In the Arkadi museum, you can buy excellent duplicates of symbols made in the traditional manner and other orthodox Christian items. Outside of the monastery, you can enjoy a coffee or snack, at the coffee shop. There is also a souvenir shop where you can buy local products. Handcrafts, olive oil, honey, raki and wine are the most popular products that a visitor can buy.
The monastery is open to visitors, is located about 96 km from Kato Gouves and it will take almost an hour and 10 minutes by car. Close by are the villages of Margarites, Pikris and Kapsaliana, where locals can tell you many stories of the Arkadi holocaust.
You can view here an Arkadi Monastery Gallery
MONI ARKADIOU, RETHYMNO, GREECE
Tel.: +30 28310 83136
01Apr – 31May Mon-Sun, 0900-1900
01Jun – 30Sep Mon-Sun, 0900-2000
01Oct – 31Oct Mon-Sun, 0900-1900
01Nov – 30Nov Mon-Sun, 0900-1700
01Dec – 31Mar Mon-Sun, 0900-1600