The date of the foundation of the monastery of Moni Arkadiou (Arkadi, Greek: Μονή Αρκαδίου) is not exactly known. According to tradition, the name of this church refers to the name of the Emperor Arkadiusz, who supposedly was to be its founder. However, the current Renaissance building is much younger and comes from the 16th century.
The tragic events that took place in this monastery in 1866 made it particularly important for all inhabitants of Crete. Moni Arkadiou is for the Cretans synonymous with the struggle for freedom and an expression of rebellion against the Turkish occupation.
In a stormy 1866, the uprising took place in Crete, which, as history has shown, lasted for the next three years. A particularly significant and important event was the siege of Moni Arkadiou. The monastery was the seat of the insurgent forces, so it is not surprising that it has become one of the priority targets of Turkish troops suppressing the uprising.
Moni Arkadiou - a view of the church facade on which you can still see the traces of the fight from 1866
On November 8, the Ottoman troops circled the hill where the monastery was located. Less than three hundred Cretan insurgents had against each other a Turkish army, consisting of more than 15,000. soldiers and 30 cannons. However, even such an overwhelming advantage could not force the Cretans to surrender without a fight. On November 8, 1866, the Ottoman commander made the final attempt to induce insurgents to surrender. The shots from the Cretans were, however, the only answer the messenger sent by Suleiman received. This strong retort was a signal to start the assault on the monastery.
The high and well-protected walls of Moni Arkadiou gave Cretan insurgents the possibility of effective defense. The shieldless Turkish army suffered many losses. Despite repeated attempts to penetrate the barricaded door and burn the windmill occupied by the Cretans, Suleiman's forces failed to penetrate the monastery grounds. With the dusk falling, the Turks halted the battle. At night, the Cretans tried to get their meals off. Two messengers dressed up as Turks were sent to Amos for help. However, due to the fact that all access roads were blocked by Turkish troops, no help was possible.
In the evening of November 9, the fight flared up again. Turkish artillery, reinforced by two heavy cannons taken from Rethymnon, destroyed the entrance gate to Moni Arkadiou and enabled Suleiman's army to enter the courtyard of the monastery. Ending ammunition forced the insurgents to fight on bayonets with penetrating Ottoman soldiers.
The defending Cretans were pushed into two rooms in which gunpowder was stored. The insurgents gathered in one of the warehouses, wanting to avoid submission to the Ottoman army, set fire to the barrels of powder causing a great explosion as a result of which most of the Cretans in the monastery were killed. The powder explosion also caused significant losses on the part of the Turkish army. It was this last tragic episode of defense of Moni Arkadiou that made this monastery so strongly in the history of the Cretan struggle for independence.
At the beginning of the Turkish siege, in the monastery there were about a thousand people (including many women and children) with only a hundred people surviving until the end of the battle. Losses on the side of Turkish troops were equally large, over one and a half thousand soldiers were killed.
The entrance ticket to Moni Arkadiou costs around € 3. It is worth remembering to dress in appropriate attire, because although the monks staying in this monastery are not as strict as in other places, we definitely do not recommend parading in too scant clothing (at the entrance there is the possibility of renting fluffy scarves that you can cover ).
By going by car to this monastery, the easiest way leads from the side of the New National Road. About 9 kilometersTo the east of Rethymnon, turn south towards Arkadiou or follow the signposts directing you to the monastery. From here you have to drive less than 11 kilometers to a small gravel car park, which is located in front of the monastery walls.
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