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Kera Kardiotissa Monastery

Place description

The Kera Kardiotissa Monastery can be found 50km southeast of Heraklion, nestled within a forested area of the North Dikti Range, and adjacent to the road that leads to the Lassithi Plateau. This historic monastery has given its name to the nearby settlements of Kera and Ano Kera Kera.

Its exact foundation date remains a mystery. However, it is thought that the monastery’s establishment is linked to the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, from which it derives its name (Kera translates to Our Lady). Today, this icon is housed in the Church of San Alfonso in Rome. Created by San Lazaro in the 9th century, the icon portrays Panagia (Virgin Mary) cradling Jesus. Tradition has it that the icon was moved to Constantinople during the iconoclastic Era, only to return miraculously. Furthermore, in the Venetian Era, a wine merchant stole the icon and took it to Rome, where it remains to this day. In 1735, a replacement icon was introduced, which is also deemed miraculous.

The monastery’s stunning stone-built church is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary, celebrated on September 8. The current church was constructed in four stages, initially as a single-aisled temple, which was later expanded to include two rooms and a smaller chapel. Notable are the 14th-century frescoes, though they have been significantly weathered over time.

Due to its strategic location, the Kera Monastery served as a revolutionary center for the local province during the Cretan uprisings and subsequently endured numerous Turkish attacks. Presently, Kera functions as a convent and is well worth visiting, particularly when combined with a trip to the Lassithi Plateau.

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