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Arkadi Monastery

According to the inscription, which has been preserved on the frontal support of the belfry, the church was built in 1587 that is during the period of the Venetian occupation on Crete. This explains the plethora of architectural elements of the Renaissance, which the visitor will notice at first sight.

The impressing facade of the church is divided into two sections. The lower section reveals four pairs of columns of Gothic style with Roman elements. Above the Corinthian capitals of the columns a Corinthian entablature can be seen, whilst in between the columns there are three semi-circular arches supported by pilasters. The two corner arches include a circular opening in the centre, the perimeter of which is ornamented with an anthemion.

The second section of the facade, that which is extending above the Corinthian entablature, includes a variety of mouldings and ellipsoid openings which are set exactly above the circular openings of the lower section.

The belfry towers over the centre of the upper part of the facade, whilst the corners are ornamented with two Gothic pinnacles.

The harmonic arrangement of various architectural elements such as Gothic arches and pinnacles, anthemia of the Renaissance, Corinthian mouldings of the late Renaissance and baroque volutes not only makes this façade most impressive, but it also gives evidence of the fact that the architect of the Arkadi Monastery was influenced by the work of architects of the Renaissance, particularly by that of Sebastiano Serlio and Andrea Palladio.

25 km from the town of Rethymno, at the north-west foot of Psiloritis and at an altitude of approximately 500 m, the Holy Monastery of Arkadi is situated. There are various routes leading to the monastery, each of which is of particular naturalist and historical interest.

According to records the Byzantine Emperor Heraklios founded the Holy Monastery of Arkadi, whereas the Emperor Arkadios, whose name was taken by the monastery, carried out its construction during the 5th century. However, scientists support the opinion that both the monastery’s foundation and its name are owed to a monk called Arkadios. Inscriptions testify that the two-aisled church in the centre of the monastery was built in 1587 and dedicated to Aghios Konstantinos and the Transfiguration of the Saviour.

Other inscriptions show that there had existed another church dating back to the 14th century, previous to the church of present day, the restoration of which resulted in the present day church.The nave is situated in the centre of the square ground plan of the complex, around which the monk cells and outbuildings of the monastery are built. The Monastery of Arkadi became beyond any doubt the symbol of self-sacrifice and freedom during the revolution of 1866-1869, particularly since the besieged inhabitants sacrificed themselves and preferred to die rather than to surrender to the Turks.

The brave hand of Kostis Giampoudakis from the village of Adele did not hesitate to set fire to the ammunition chamber, where the besieged had gathered, thus blowing up the entire monastery and turning it into a symbol of bravery and freedom. The sacred banner of the revolution as well as other relics such as monastery utensils, gold embroidered vestments and weapons are on exhibition in the Monastery Museum.