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Apezanes Monastery in Antiskari

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Located on a rocky plateau in the Asterousia Mountains at an altitude of 440m and approximately 63km south of Heraklion, the Monastery of St. Anthony in Apezanes or Apezana is a sight to behold. A short valley from this point leads from the village of Antiskari to the beachfront of Platia Peramata.

To access the monastery, visitors can take a dirt road either from Plora village or via the road that leads to Kala Limania from Pompia. In both instances, signs to Apezanes will be visible.

As a male monastery and one of the oldest in Crete, the Monastery of St. Anthony was built with fortress architecture. However, its fort-like character has undergone significant changes due to early 20th-century alterations. The fort was originally rectangular and formed by the external walls of the complex buildings. It was also protected by three towers with cannons, leading the Turks to call it the Toplou monastery (top = cannon), similar to the Toplou Monastery in Sitia.

The central church, situated on the edge of the building complex, is a three-aisled church constructed on the site of an older St. Anthony church. The three aisles are dedicated to St. Anthony (celebrated January 17), the Transfiguration (August 6), and the Three Hierarchs (January 30). The church’s magnificent carved iconostasis showcases the monastery’s former wealth. One of the icons is believed to be the work of El Greco, the most renowned Greek painter of the Renaissance. Additionally, the monastery houses the icon of St. Anthony, a creation by Michael Damaskinos, the second most famous Cretan religious painter after El Greco.

Next to the church stands the impressive two-story abbey, originally intended to house the Diocese of Arcadia but never did. Surrounding the area, visitors can find the monks’ cells, guest house, refectory, and the 25m deep well that provides water to Apezana. The monastery is home to valuable religious relics such as ancient vestments, gold and silver crosses, gospels, icons, relics of saints, and more.

During the Venetian period, the Abbey was Crete’s largest antipope center. It served as a significant center for literature and theology, but it became a humble rural monastery during the Ottoman Era. A small rural settlement grew alongside the monastery, which is also connected to the founding of Apanosifis Monastery.

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