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Arkadi Monastery

Place description

The Arkadi Monastery can be found near Amnatos village, approximately 23km east of Rethymno. Situated at an altitude of 500m, the monastery is surrounded by a lush landscape of olive groves, vineyards, and various types of trees, including pine, cypress, and oak. Several charming chapels are scattered around the monastery, and the stunning Arkadi gorge begins nearby.

While the exact date of the monastery’s establishment remains uncertain, it is thought to have been founded by Byzantine Emperor Arkadios in the 12th century. Alternatively, it may have been named after a monk called Arkadios, who is said to have founded the monastery. The Turks referred to it as Tsanli Manastir (meaning beneficiary bell), as the Arkadi Monastery was the only one in Crete permitted to ring its bells.

The original church of the monastery was devoted to Saint Constantine and Helen, with some remnants of it still visible in the northwestern area of the monastery grounds. The monastery is encircled by imposing walls, making it impenetrable to enemies and thus an attractive refuge for rebellious Cretans. Numerous Turkish and Greek documents mention the monastery’s role in providing educational, national, ethical, and financial support to the local population.

Undoubtedly the most historically significant monastery in Crete, Arkadi has become a revered symbol of the Cretans’ fight for freedom. It was the site of the tragic 1866 Battle, which ultimately paved the way for the island’s liberation in 1898. In recognition of its importance, UNESCO has declared Arkadi a European Freedom Monument.

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