Old Monasteries in Viannos

Old Monasteries in Viannos

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The municipality of Viannos in the southeastern part of Heraklion is known for its wild beauty. Located at the foothills of Mount Dikti, it offers impressive geomorphological formations, beautiful plateaus and charming villages. During World War II, Viannos found itself at the centre of a mass extermination attack by Nazi soldiers, in reprisal for their support of the rebel forces. Most of the villages in the area were burned and looted while more than 500 people were executed during a period of two days. Survivors were forbidden to return and bury the dead.

There are many churches in the area that may have operated as monasteries. One example is the church of the prophet Elijah in the northeastern side of Keratokampos, which seems to have been destroyed after being looted by the Turks. Another monastery was that of the church of Agios Dimitrios of “Galatoktistos“. Due to its position close to the shore, it was vulnerable to sea invaders, and quickly abandoned; the monks went further inland. The most famous monasteries of Viannos are the Holy Monastery, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Monastery of Agios Antonios of Arvi, the Monastery of Agios Dimitrios in Kastri Chondros, the Monastery of Prokopi in Kalami, the Monastery of Agia Ypakoi in Sykologos and Panagia Keralimeniotissa in Faflago.

Monastery of Agios Dimitrios in Kastri, Chondros

At the site of the church of Agios Dimitrios in Kastri Chondros, it is speculated that a monastery functioned during the Turkish occupation. The monastery is said to have gained a great reputation at that time as a refuge for persecuted Christians and its monks were distinguished for their militancy. They were persecuted by the Turks in the late 18th and early 19th century and forced to take refuge in the Monastery of Apezan. According to the story, before they fled, they hid precious sacred utensils and other relics in the area. The small church of Agios Dimitrios has a Byzantine origin as evidenced by its frescoes and must have been the catholic of the Monastery. It is said that since there were many sheep and goats in the wider area, milk instead of water was used for its construction in the preparation of the mud. That is why it is also called Agios Dimitrios of β€œGalatoktistos”.

Monastery of Agia Yapokoi in Sykologos

The Monastery of Agia Yapokoi has a similar story to the Monastery of Agios Dimitrios. The residents hid in the adjacent cave (now called Apakougi) to protect themselves and managed to stay undetected. Indeed, even today if one visits it and looks for the opening, it is so small that it is very difficult to locate. The Arabs completely destroyed the monastery and it has not been inhabited since then. It is said that one of the monks who also hid in the cave of Apakougi left and ultimately founded the Monastery of Panagia Keralimeniotissa.

Prokopi Monastery in Kalami

In the wider area of ​​the settlement of Kalami, there are traces from the former Monastery of Prokopi. According to history, during the Arab conquest, the locals took refuge in the monastery but were discovered, and slaughtered. The monastery was also destroyed and has not been rebuilt since.