Crete tourist guide

The best Polish website dedicated to the Greek island Crete and to a small extent of continental Greece. You will find useful information related to visiting Crete that goes beyond the offer of optional tours. On the website you will also find descriptions of the most interesting places that we visited by visiting this largest Greek island. The content complements the current news, photographs and recipes of Greek cuisine.

Moni Kapsa

Moni Kapsa Monastery (Μονή Καψά) is one of the most interesting monasteries in Crete. Its massive buildings were erected on rocky, gray slopes surrounding the nearby Pervolakia Gorge. From a distance, it looks as if the monastery buildings were literally growing out of steep rocks. The most interesting view of the monastery is from the sea. If you sail to the nearby island of Koufonissi , you will have the opportunity to look at Moni Kapsa from the deck of the ship.

Moni Kapsa - view from the sea

The full name of the monastery is Agios Ioannis Kapsa (Saint John Kapsa - Ἁγίου Ἰωάννου Καψᾶ). Formally, it is subject to the Toplou Monastery located near Vai Beach and the city of Sitia .

This monastery is located about 9 km east of Makra Gialos and less than 35 km from Ierapetra , next to the town of Goudouras on the southern coast of Crete just at the exit of the picturesque Pervolakia Gorge. If you spend your holidays in this area of Crete, it's definitely worth a look. However, we advise against coming here from more distant tourist destinations.


Monastery history

Moni Kapsa Monastery was founded by hermits in honor of John the Baptist. There is no complete agreement as to the date of its creation. Some sources indicate the 15th century as the beginning of activity, others say about the 14th or even 13th century.

Pretty soon, in 1471, the monastery was invaded and partly destroyed by Turkish pirates. After these events, he was abandoned for many years and fell into ruin. Until the monastery was reactivated, the entire area changed hands.

In the fifteenth century, residents returned to the neighboring region, and among them one called Giovanni Capsas (hence the name of the monastery: Kapsa), but the monastery itself was still ruined, Only a small church built on the rock was in good condition.

The work of reconstruction began only in 1841, so after 400 years of abandonment, by the monk Joseph Gerontoyiannis. After his death in 1874, his grandson continued the work of reconstruction. Probably the fact of having a grandson by a monk surprised you, but you have to remember that the monk was not always a monk. The story of Joseph Gerontoyiannis is presented below.

Signpost pointing to the cave of Joseph Gerontoyiannis By following the directions you will reach the Gerontoyiannis cave


During World War II, as with many other Cretan monasteries, from 1941 Kapsa was a center of resistance against the German occupation forces. Greek and British resistance activists took refuge here to avoid being evacuated to Egypt by British submarines. The abbot at that time was Hilarion Syntychakis, who in November 1943 was ordered by the Germans to leave the monastery with other monks. The clergy returned to Moni Kapsa in 1945, when the Germans had already left Crete.

Gerontoyiannis and his work

One of the most important figures of the Kapsas monastery was Saint Ioannis Vitsentzos, also later known as Gerontoyiannis, who was born in 1799 in the destroyed chapel of the Kapsa monastery. He owes this unusual birthplace to his parents Emmanuel and Zambia Vintsentzos, who lived in the nearby village of Lithines. According to one version, they went to the Kapsa chapel to worship Saint. John the Baptist, while other sources say that Ioannis's parents took refuge here from the Turkish invasion. In the same chapel a few years later Ioannis was baptized.

Since no schools could operate during the Turkish occupation, young Ioannis was taught by clergy. Thanks to this, he had extensive knowledge of the Orthodox religion, and also became an assistant of the cantor.

Growing up, apart from taking up education, at the same time he dealt with family estates located in the vicinity of Kapsa, cultivated the land and looked after a flock of sheep. After reaching puberty, he married a girl from his village. This woman was reportedly a beauty that was noticed by the Turks occupying Crete at that time. Desperate parents, in order to protect their daughter, even wanted to hide her in the caves in the south of the island. The marriage with Ioannis was to protect Kalliopi from the interest of Turkish soldiers. The wedding of Ioannis and Kalliopi took place in the same ruined chapel of St. John the Baptist in the monastery Kapsa, in which Ioannis was born. The name Gerontoyiannis was assigned to them by the wife's family.

The young couple lived happily in the hometown of Lithines, raising four children and enjoying the respect of their fellow men for their hospitality, generosity and philanthropic activities.

An extraordinary dream and a wonderful recovery

Some sources describing Gerontoyiannis's life say that on Easter Friday 1841, 42-year-old Ioannis fell into a deep sleep, from which his loved ones could not wake him up. After 43 hours, when he finally woke up, he found his family and friends gathered by his bed. He told them how he had been taken to heaven while he was sleeping, where he was to see and hear wonderful things that cannot be expressed in words. Among the people there was also a paralyzed old woman who, after Ioannis's words, reached out. This event was considered a miracle that initiated Gerontoyiannis' fame. He himself recognized these events as a sign from God and in 1844 he decided to leave the village and his family and devote his entire life to God.

Cave in the Moni Kapsa monastery The cave where Gerontoyiannis lived

Alter ego Ioannis

Interestingly, some sources present Ioannis in a completely different way. They describe him as an adventurous, tough and stubborn man who was on his back with the Turkish authorities. He was even accused of inciting the revolution, for which he was to be thrown into prison. According to these sources, another event caused a breakthrough in the life of the later saint. One Sunday, when Kaliope and his wife went to the neighboring villages of Chandras and Armeni to sell wood and buy wine, a fatal accident occurred in Ioannis' house. During the parents' absence, a fire broke out in which one of the daughters burned. Gerontoyiannis considered this tragic accident with divine punishment for his sinful life and taking up work this Sunday. This event was to cause a breakthrough in the life of Gerontoyiannis, who decided to devote himself to serving God.

Unfortunately, we do not know which of these versions of the biography is closer to the truth. With the number of sources we studied about this character, there were more and more discrepancies and various side stories.


Reactivation of the monastery

However, the rest of its history is certain. Gerontoyiannis, after being ordained a monk, took the name of Józef. As a place of his stay, where he was to practice abstinence and penance in isolation, he chose a ruined monastery, where he was born, baptized and got married.

A newly baked monk settled in a cave dedicated to Saint. John the Baptist located on the steep slope of the Pervolakia Gorge, located one hundred meters from the monastery. He lived there for 17 years, devoting those years to asceticism, and later he began hard work on the reconstruction of the monastery cells, as well as the reactivation of the church.

It is also said that the monk Józef had divine visions, walked on the sea to the nearby island of Kouffonissi and healed the sick. As in every legend, perhaps in these stories there is also a grain of truth. The surest thing is that thanks to his activity he gained fame, and the monastery of Kapsa became a famous pilgrimage destination all over Crete. People came here for blessing, advice and healing. Fame also attracted other ascetics who, remaining in Kapsa, created a monastic community and joined the construction works. Thanks to them new monastery buildings were created. Among the people who came here was also the local landowner, Chatzi Nikolaos Zafiris, who gave the land to Gerontoyiannis so that he could continue the work of renovating the monastery of Kapsa without hindrance.

Buildings of the Moni Kapsa monastery

In 1861 a second nave of the monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built. In 1863, only two years later, the monastery was restored to glory. The fact that it was done so quickly and did not cost any money was also considered a miracle.

According to some sources, due to his previous achievements and virtuous life, Gerontoyiannis received an invitation from the head of the ruined monastery of Agia Sophia located nearby between the villages of Armenous and Chandras. For five years (1866-1870) he was to rebuild this monastery.

In 1870 he returned to his hermitage at Kapsa, where he died 4 years later on August 6, 1874 at the age of 75. On May 7, 1982, after many hours of services and an overnight vigil, relics of St. Józef Gerontogiannis. They were placed in a silver hunter and deposited in the Kapsa monastery. In 2004, Gerontoyiannis was officially entered on the list of saints of the Orthodox Church.


Gerontoyiannis' work was continued by his grandson Józef Gerontakis, who in 1866 became the archimandrite (guardian) of the monastery. He supported the expansion of the monastery, brought water to it and cultivated the surrounding lands.

Contemporary believers living in this area are very proud of the fact that such an outstanding figure of the church comes from their area. He became a model for both celibacy and marriage. The holiday in his honor is celebrated on August 7. The second important holiday is celebrated on August 29. The Baptism Day of John the Baptist attracts large crowds of believers who come here even from distant towns. Later, everyone participates in the great festival.

Sightseeing

Kapsa Monastery can be visited free of charge every day from 06.30-12.30 and 15.30-19.00. It is worth remembering that the monks currently living here strictly observe these hours and unfortunately are not the most pleasant themselves. As strict as the monks are the rules regarding the appropriate outfit, in which it is allowed to explore the area. If you want to see this place, keep these restrictions in mind.

The monastery buildings are located on four levels and include the cells of monks, a bakery, warehouses and a large rainwater tank.


The interior of the monastery

Unfortunately, tourists probably cannot visit the monastery buildings. When we were here everything was closed. It is a pity because the church has an intricately carved iconostasis and relics of saints: John the Baptist, Joseph Gerontogiannis, Great Basil, Saint Pantaleon and a piece of the Holy Cross.

After seeing the courtyard and the hall decorated with mosaics made of pebbles, we went to the cave where Gerontoyiannis lived. The path leading to it begins at the back of the monastery and leads about 100 m up. From the rocky path there is a picturesque view of the Libyan Sea and the small island of Koufonissi. In front of the monastery there is a rocky beach (Paralía Kapsá; Παραλία Καψᾶ), unfortunately you will not see it from this place.


How to get

On the KTEL list of local connections we didn't find a bus that would get here from the Ierapetra loop. Most likely, therefore, you can only get here using your own / rented means of transport or a taxi. Alternatively, if you spend your holidays in Makry Gialos and you like really long walks then you can get there on foot or by bike (about 18 km both ways).

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Redirected from the site - Moni Toplou. Moni Toplou (Μονή Τοπλού) also called as the Monastery of Panagia Akrotiriani, or simply the Great Monastery is one of the most beautiful and important monasteries in Crete. It is located at the foot of the Sidero peninsula and with its 10-meter wall and 33-meter belfry from a distance resembles a fortress.

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Redirected from the site - Kato Preveli. Currently, the lower monastery is still not open to the public and is not used by the monks. The buildings of the upper monastery have undergone partial renovation and are the main seat of the Preveli monastery.

Complete history of the Preveli monastery (Turkish occupation)

Complete history of the Preveli monastery (Turkish occupation)

During the Turkish occupation, which began in 1649, the Preveli monastery, like many other such places, was destroyed. Later, it was rebuilt and once again was one of the most important monasteries in Crete, strongly affecting the local community of Sfakia residents. During this period, Preveli was also an important center of resistance to the Turkish occupation.

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