The Holy Trail & Zorbas

Santorini is considered by many of what remains of Lost Atlantis, due to the volcanic eruption that caused a large part of the original island to sink.

A walking tour with a difference…!

Akrotiri in west Crete was where the major Monasteries were and part of this area is Known as the mount Athos of Crete.  We start our tour with a stop at the tombs of the Father of the modern Greek nation Eleftherios Venizelos, with its panoramic view over the city and the north coast of Chania,

The Monastery of Agia Triada Tzagarolon was built in 1634, on the site of a small church dedicated to the Holy Apostles.

The monks Lavrentios and Ieremias who built the monastery came from the great Venetocretan Tzagarolos family, which is reported to have exercised great influence on the local Orthodox and Catholic communities.

In 1645, when the Turks invaded Crete, work on Tzagarolon Monastery was interrupted. The Turks called the monastery Selvili Manastir, which means “Monastery of the Cypresses” – presumably because of the cypress drive leading to the monastery.

Later, at the Greek Revolution in 1821, the monks living in the monastery managed to escape, but were forced to leave behind all the historical relics and manuscripts they had collected, which were burnt by the Turks.

After the end of the Greek Revolution, the Monastery of Agia Triada was re-established and the building work completed. In the meantime, the monastery had acquired a large fortune and extended its activity to Asia Minor.

The Gouverneto Monastery or of Our Lady of the Angels, so called, is on the north side of Akrotiri, near the Monastery of Agia Triada Tzagarolon, at the entrance of the Gorge Avlaki. The original location was next to the sea and must be founded in the 6th or 7th century, but lately was abandoned because of frequent pirate raids. The new monastery began to be built in the period 1537-1548, at an altitude of 260 meters, from monastic and ascetic who built on a pre-existing ancient temple. The building works were completed during the Ottoman rule, after special permission gave the Ottomans. Around the church of the monastery there are the rest buildings of the complex, such as the altar, the small museum, etc. In the cemetery of the monastery there is also the chapel of Agia Paraskevi, and two other chapels, of St. John the Hermit and St. Ten and numerous monastery dependences in the region of Akrotiri.

During the Venetian rule, the Monastery had a remarkable spiritual movement and in 1637 was one of the biggest monasteries with many monks, monastery dependencies and important property. During the early years of Ottoman rule, the Monastery (Monastir Bali – monastery of honey so called by the Turks) was the seat of the Bishop of Crete. During the Revolution of 1821, the monastery was pillaged and many monks were killed. A few years later, in the 1830s, Gouverneto began to reorganize and in 1894 were completed the works for completion of the sacred temple of Our Lady of the Angels and more specifically the front and two side chapels.  the monastery continued to perform the spiritual and social role, providing housing and food to the local suffering population. Today this historic monastery is an important pilgrimage destination with active presence in the religious and social life under the blessing of the new brotherhood living there.

From here we go thru the Avlaki Gorge to the Catholicon of St John the Hermit,  The gorge is not accessible in all its length, but there is a paved path that starts from the Monastery of Our Lady of Angels Gouverneto and heads to Katholiko monastery. The trail does not cover the entire length of the gorge, but it initially runs above and along its sidesis built at the entrance of the cave where walking in the path is easy, but quite downhill, so the return is a bit tedious (but short). After 10′ of walking from Gouverneto, you will meet the cave of Arkoudiotissa with the ancient temple of Artemis. From there the trail becomes steeper and the scenery rougher. After 10 more minutes, you arrive at the abandoned monastery of Katholiko with the cavernous church of St. John the Hermit, who lived here. The cave is very deep (151m) and whoever wants to walk inside it must have a torch.