Top things to do in Crete: Arkadi Monastery

Monastery of Arkadi

If you are not a history lover then you will surely appreciate the beauty of the architecture of the monastery, which is heavily influenced by Renaissance art as the church was built in the Venetian era of Crete. As a matter of fact, at first glance, it looks like an Italian church due to Venice’s influence of the area at the time. However, it belongs to the Orthodox priesthood. The Monastery looks quite like a fortress. It is compiled by a big, rectangular and well preserved building complex where in its center (and south of it) the two-aisled saddle arched church.

The exact date of the founding of the monastery is not precisely known. Most probably it was founded in the beginning of the 14th century.

The Arkadi Monastery is one of Crete’s most venerated symbols of freedom. The defiant defense of this fortress-like monastery during the 1866 Cretan rebellion against the Ottoman rule is still legendary and inspirational.

During the revolution of 1866 against the Ottoman rule Arkadi Monastery became the rebels’ headquarters, thanks to its central position on the island and strategic location atop a craggy inland gorge.

At dawn on November 8, 1866, the Arkadi defenders awoke to find the monastery surrounded by 15,000 Ottoman soldiers armed with 30 cannons. The monastery walls were manned by only 259 armed men, including 45 monks. There were also almost 700 unarmed women and children from nearby villages, seeking refuge from the encroaching Ottomans. The Turkish commander’s demand for surrender was answered by gunfire: The battle was on!

What the refugees at Arkadi feared more than death was to fall into the hands of the Ottomans. So, as the enemy troops smashed the walls and gate, a young rebel named Konstantinos Giaboudakis led more than 600 women and children into the monastery’s gunpowder storage room. As the door splintered by the invaders, Giaboudakis put a spark to a gunpowder keg. The massive explosion killed all the refugees, along with several hundred Ottoman soldiers. When the smoke cleared, 864 Cretan men, women and children lay dead, along with 1500 Turks. The Turks took 114 prisoners whom they immediately put to death. Only 3 rebels managed to escape to tell the tale.

How to get to the Monastery of Arkadi:

The Arkadi Monastery is located in the Rethymno regional unit, 25 km southeast of Rethymno. The Monastery is situated on a rectangular plateau on the northwest side of Mount Ida (Crete), at an altitude of 500 m. There is a bus that runs from the bus station in Rethymnon directly to the monastery. If you have a car take the National Highway from Rethymnon for about 6km to the exit for Tsesme – Platania. Τhe monastery is open from 09.00 until the sunset and the entrance fee is 3 euros.

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