Cavernous Chapels of Avdou

Agia Anna
Agia Fotini


Agia Fotini Cave and Agia Anna church
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The monastery of Saint Anne (Agia Anna) and the Cave of Saint Photini (Agia Fotini) were hermitages located on Mount Louloudaki, on the outskirts of the village Avdou. According to tradition, Saint Photini was looking to find some quiet and secluded place to dedicate the rest of her life to God. But while she could not find the place she wanted, the Virgin Mary (Panagia) appeared and miraculously opened the cave on the rock, so that Saint Photini could enter.

According to tradition, women who have a problem with childbearing, praying in the cave, and drinking the holy water dripping from the roof into a jar, give birth and always bear boys. Agia Fotini in Avdou is mentioned in historical archives as a monastery. Paul Faure mentions that the worship in the cave started in the 19th century, but apparently there were sporadic monks - hermits in the surrounding caves since much earlier. However, there are no traces of an organized monastery complex, although it is known that at the end of the 19th century at least one monk lived here.

The Cave of Agia Fotini was known as a hiding place during the Cretan Revolutions. In their report to the bishop of Petra, in 1899, the inhabitants of Avdou state that "The monastery of Agia Fotini, due to its location, has so far not only saved the property of the whole province (by the Turks) but also always hosted the forerunners of freedom". The same document mentions the name of the monk Daniel Tzekakis who lived in Agia Fotini. The inhabitants with this document asked the Bishop to allow the monk to take a tour of his  diocese, because the maintenance of the convent was then too tough.

Today, the church is easily accessible and known to many people, as the road reaches the church of Saint Anne and Saint John the Apostle and from there begins a path to the cave, which is a former underground riverbed. The path reaches the hall that serves as a sanctuary, with a jar filled with "holy water" dripping from the ceiling in the middle of the hall. Above the sanctuary rises an imposing stalagmite 10m high with a small hole above it. This tiny hole was the only passage for speleologists in 1999 and 2000 to another multi-layered cave, with many tunnels and rooms with incredibly beautiful cave decoration and ponds, which raised the then-known length of paths of the cave from only 30m to 700m!

In the square in front of Agia Anna there is a big festival taking place on the fourth Sunday after Easter.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Horizontal Cave, With archaeological importance
  • Length (m): 700
  • Accessibility: Dirt track

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