on a plateau at an altitude of 500m, 18km South-East of
Rethymnon, the imposing monastery of Arkadi has been a symbol of
freedom in Crete for centuries. The earliest written
evidence dates the monastery to the 14th century, but it is
believed that on the same grounds there has been a monastery
since the 5th century AD. Towards the end of the 16th
century restoration and expansion work was carried out.
The monastery church dates from this period and is dedicated to
the Transfiguration of the Saviour and to the Saints Constantine
and Helen. The stables just outside the front gate date
The monastery gained international fame during the Cretan
revolution against the Turks in 1866-1869. Finding
themselves under siege from the occupying forces, local
inhabitants barricaded themselves into ammunition storerooms and
then chose to blow them up, rather than surrendering to the
Turks - resulting in hundreds of deaths. A memorial
ossuary is housed in the octagonal building just outside the
Within the monastery grounds there is an interesting museum
housing the sacred banner of the Arkadi tragedy, post-Byzantine
icons, weapons from the revolutionary era, vestments of great
artistic and historical importance and personal items belonging
to the legendary Abbot Gabriel.
The anniversary of the Arkadi tragedy is marked every year and
is celebrated as a public holiday on Crete.