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Monastery Palianis near Venerato

Place description

The Paliani nunnery can be found at an altitude of 280m, near the villages of Avgeniki and Venerato, 20km southwest of Heraklion and to the east of the wild Venerato Gorge. This monastery is dedicated to the Assumption, and its celebration takes place on August 15. Paliani Monastery is believed to be one of the oldest in Crete, but its exact foundation date remains unknown. A fascinating feature of the monastery is the sacred Myrtle tree in the churchyard, which is associated with an icon of the Virgin Mary and is worshipped as a relic of Minoan dendrolatry (tree worship).

The name Paliani is thought to be derived from Palia Moni (Old Monastery). However, another theory suggests that the name is connected to Apolonia, an ancient city located close to Venerato. The monastery was once patriarchal and, at various times, possessed vast wealth and numerous dependencies (smaller monasteries and churches). During the Ottoman era, Paliani faced significant challenges, as it was destroyed by the Ottomans and the nuns were massacred. Despite this, the monastery was quickly restored and has since been considered one of the wealthiest in Crete.

The primary church is a basilica with three aisles dedicated to the Assumption (celebrated on August 15), the Three Hierarchs (January 30), and St. Panteleimon (July 27). Additionally, there is a separate small chapel dedicated to the Holy Apostles (June 30). The main temple was initially supported by ancient Byzantine-style columns adorned with acanthus leaves, fragments of which can be found scattered throughout the monastery grounds. Marble pieces from the Byzantine period are also visible throughout the area. The monastery has undergone significant changes over time. The temple is now surrounded by the nuns’ cells and additional rooms, and visitors can still see remnants of the fortress wall that once protected Paliani. The monastery also owns the ancient Byzantine church of St. John, which features 14th-century frescoes. Paliani Monastery operates a museum housing icons, relics, and numerous books of significant historical and archaeological value. The monastery is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset daily.

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