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Τετάρτη, 25 Απριλίου 2012

Culture and Churches and Monasteries of Rethymno

Churches and Monasteries
 Aplethora of churches and monasteries was built in the Prefecture of Rethymno during both the early Christian and the Byzantine period. Byzantine churches amount to an estimated 300 and 30 monasteries. The prevailing architectural style during the early Christian period was that of the "Basilicas", which were distinguished by their wooden roof and their three aisles, of which the middle aisle was raised.
Remains of 18 basilicas of that style have been found in Rethymno. However, the architectural style that prevailed during the entire Byzantine period, from the 9th century up until the Venetian occupation, was that of cruciform basilicas with a cupola. Both cruciform, and single-aisled domed churches can be found in various places throughout the prefecture and represent true gems in the countryside of Rethymno.

Early Christian and Byzantine churches are not only of great architectural interest, they also display magnificent interior embellishments: mosaics in early Christian basilicas and frescoes in Byzantine churches. The mosaics usually present geometric forms and motifs taken from the realm of flora and fauna. The frescoes in churches, which were built after the 11th century, depict motifs of narrative character. The techniques used as well as the materials change according to the period of time. This became most obvious during the period of the Cretan Renaissance, more precisely from the 15th century and henceforth, when Byzantine iconography and traditional techniques were complemented by elements of the Renaissance of western countries.

As already mentioned above, the number of churches is so large that at this point we can only introduce a few of the most important examples.
Early Christian Basilica of Panormo:
Southwest of the village of Panormo and 30 km east of Rethymno the largest early Christian church on Crete was excavated in 1948. The basilica has a wooden roof; it dates back to the 5th century and is dedicated to Aghia Sofia.
Early Christian Basilica of Goulediana:This three-aisled early Christian basilica with rich mosaic ornaments was discovered at the place of Onythe, southeast of the village of Goulediana, which is situated 18 km from Rethymno. It dates back to either the 6th or the 7th century.
Early Christian Basilica of Ancient Eleftherna:
It is situated in the archaeological area of Ancient Eleftherna, at the place of Katsivelos. This three-aisled basilica with rich mosaic ornaments dates back to either the 6th or the 7th century.
Aghios Ioannis in Gerakari in the district of Amari:
Outside the village of Gerakari, and 41 km from Rethymno, the church of Aghios Ioannis the Theologist is situated, which dates back to the 13th century. This single-aisled church has a tiled roof. The domed narthex was added later. The church is ornamented with particularly interesting frescoes.
Aghios Dimitrios in the village of the same name:
In the village of Aghios Dimitrios, which is situated 10 km east of Rethymno on the road to Arkadi, the cruciform church of Aghios Dimitrios inscribed with a cupola can be found. It dates back to the 11th century.
Panaghia in the village of Roustica:
This two-aisled church dedicated to the Holy Virgin and Christ the Saviour is situated at the place of Livadi in the village of Roustica, 21 km from Rethymno. The walls in the interior of the church are covered with frescoes dating back to 1381. The belfry shows the inscription of the year 1627.
Kera Panaghia in the village of Nevs Amari:
In the wider area of the village of Nevs Amari the three-aisled basilica of Kera Panaghia can be found which was built in the same place, where an older, cruciform basilica with a cupola dating back to the 13th century had existed. The south aisle with its impressing doorframe and the coat of arms of the Kalliergis family was obviously built later, probably during the 15th century.
Panaghia in Lampini:In the village of Lampini and 27 km from Rethymno in the direction of the village of Spili, the Church of Panaghia is situated. The cruciform church is inscribed with a cupola and depicts frescoes of the 12th and 14th century. It was an Episcopal church, since the village of Lampini once accommodated the seat of the famous Episcopate of Lampis, which had existed since 431.

Monastery of Vosakos
Following the old road in the direction of Heraklio, the monastery is situated approximately 50 km from Rethymno, after a north turn to the village of Doxaro. It is dedicated to the Holy Cross. The inscription at the entrance reveals that it was built in 1195, however it was destroyed twice.

The present day church is of modern style and was built towards the end of the 19th century. The monastery has a ground plan, which is set out in a parallelogram with buildings arranged around a central yard, in which the church rises up. It was destroyed by the Turks twice, in 1646 and 1821, and was completely devastated during the decade of 1950. During recent years the monastery showed signs of recovery due to the presence of monks as well as serious attempts to restore and revitalize it.

Tel. +30 28340 61883-4

Monastery of Arsani
The Monastery of Arsani is situated 12 km east of Rethymno. Apparently a monk called Arsenios founded it during the period of Venetian occupation, and the monastery was named after him.

According to another opinion the name is derived from a woman called Arsinoe, who contributed her possessions to the building of the monastery. The cruciform, domed church as it appears today was built in 1888 and is dedicated to Aghios Georgios. The church of present day was built on the remains of an older one, which had been consecrated in 1600.

The monastery was restored in 1970, whilst the nave was ornamented with frescoes in approximately 1988/90. The monastery boasts a museum and a congress centre.

Tel. +30 28310 71228

Monastery of Bali
It is situated on a hill and offers a panoramic view on the bay and the coastal village of Bali, which is situated 37 km from Rethymno.

It is also called Monastery of Atalis, a name, which the Venetians had given to the coastal village thus modifying the name of the ancient city of Astalis. Inscriptions testify that the monastery was built during the 17th century, which does not exclude that there had been a monastery there in earlier times. The church is dedicated to Aghios Ioannis. Its façade shows distinct elements of the architecture of the Renaissance.

Due to its position and abutting the Bay of Bali, the monastery played an important role during the revolution of 1821. Later it was deserted, and only as late as 1982 new life was breathed into it when it was restored.

Tel. +30 28340 94274

Monastery of Preveli
The Monastery of Preveli is situated 37 km from Rethymno and includes two monasteries, which are 3 km apart: The "Lower Monastery", which is deserted and the "Back Monastery", which is still run and can be visited.

According to tradition the name of the monastery, which has been sanctioned after the 17th century, is either derived from an inhabitant of the village of Preveliana in the prefecture of Heraklio, who, after having committed a murder, found shelter in this area, or it is derived from one of the restorers of the monastery.

Behind The Monastery of Preveli
Towering above the central precinct is the two-aisled church of Aghios Ioannis the Theologist and of the Annunciation. To the West and to the South of the church the cells and the abbot's quarters are situated.

The church was built during recent years on the remains of an older Byzantine church. The fountain with the inscription of the foundation year of 1701 is situated on a lower level, as is the Museum of the Monastery, which displays vestments, church utensils, icons etc.

Down The Monastery of Preveli
Tel. +30 28320 41444

 Monastery of Arkadi  
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.

Tel. +30 28310 83076, 83126, 83129
Monastery of Aghia Irini
It is situated near the settlement of the same name a few kilometres south of the town of Rethymno in the direction of Roussospiti. This very old monastery is considered to date back to as early as the 14th century. However, at some point it was destroyed and henceforth remained entirely deserted.

After restoration works were started in 1989, the monastery was given new life due to the eager activities of the nuns. Today the monastery also represents the heart of folklore traditions, which are protected and preserved by the nuns in the field of handicraft in general and of weaving and embroidering in particular, since it houses a permanent exhibition of needlework produced by the nuns themselves.
Monastery of Chalevi: It is situated near the village of Chromonastiri 12 km from Rethymno. The large, single-aisled church is dedicated to the Holy Virgin. The year 1864 is carved into the lintel. However, the monastery must have existed as early as the 16th or 17th century. Except for the church all other buildings are dilapidated and of course the monastery is deserted. Since 1991 it has been annexed to the monastery of Aghia Irini.

Tel. +30 28310 27791


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