Moni Paliani – Venerato
This is one of the oldest convents on Crete, situated south of Venerato village and built on top of the ruins of an ancient temple, as confirmed by the inscription located in the courtyard of the convent. The monastery is dedicated to the Dormition of Mother Mary and has been in operation since the first centuries of the Byzantine Empire, reaching its prime during the Venetian era.
During the era of Ottoman rule, the convent was a victim of unprecedented savagery by the Ottomans, as it was set on fire and only three of the 70 nuns survived. The monastery was renovated in the late 19th century and a new period of wealth and prosperity followed. One of the most important elements of Paliani is the Agia Myrtia, a centuries-old myrtle situated south of the katholikon, which is celebrated on September 23. This is where the holy icon of the Virgin Mary was found, within the trunk, according to the tradition. This is another case of the remnants of the ancient worship of trees, which flourished during the Minoan era.
The church is a three-aisled basilica and is one of the oldest on Crete. Around the church, there are ruins of older churches from the first and second Byzantine era. Marble sections, columns, granite designs and inscriptions survive. The aisles of the church are separated by marble columns and decorated with Byzantine depictions. There are various stories behind the name of the monastery, with one claiming it is linked to “Palia Moni” (meaning “old monastery”). It is open to visitors daily from morning to sundown and there is a small museum on-site where visitors where holy icons, relics and important manuscripts are stored. From Heraklion, the distance to the monastery is less than 25 km. In the village of Venerato, there is a small gorge that is worth walking through.