Cavernous Chapels of Avdou

Agia Anna
Agia Fotini

Heraklion

Agia Fotini Cave and monastery
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The cave of Agia Fotini is on located on Mount Louloudaki, 7km south of Avdou village, at an altitude of 760m. 35km east of Heraklion is the Avdou village, where a sign "Agia Fotini Cave - 7 km”, shows the direction. From there you enter a dirt road, which leads to a small square below the mouth of the cave. Following the steep path on foot, the visitor arrives at the entrance of the cave.

The entrance of the cave is shaped into a spectacular and steep rocky cliff, formed by the sharp collapse of the limestone,and accessed via the trail that starts from the church of Agia Anna. The view from the entrance to the valley of Avdou, known as Langada, is magnificent. The visitable part of the cave has a length of 44m, width of 1,8-7,5 m and a height of 5,3-20m. However, the total length of the paths, unknown to most visitors, reaches 700m.

At the entrance there is a shrine and, after 12m there is an underground cavity. From there, a narrow corridor starts, which is an old riverbed, leading to the last room of the cave. This room is used as a church dedicated to Agia Fotini. At the edge of the hall, there is a stone staircase with 6 steps and 2 stalagmites. Locals call them "knees of Santa Fotini. Here the worshippers leave their candles.

Near the other edge of the room, a small space serves as a “holy altar” and above it, there is a “balcony”. There is still a wooden winch, with which locals raised valuable things to hide them from Turks. Beside the temple, a massive and majestic white column of 6.5 m stand. According to tradition, Saint Fotini looked to find a quiet and secluded part, so as to dedicate the rest of her life to God alone. Because she could not find the place she wanted, Virgin Mary appeared and made a miracle: she created this cave inside the rock, so as Agia Fotini could live there. Moreover, according to tradition, women who cannot become pregnant, come to pray in the cave and drink the holy water dripping from the roof. Then, they can stay pregnant and they always bear sons.

Historical records refer to Agia Fotini as a monastery. P. Faure said that worship in the cave began in the 19th century. Maybe there were sporadic monks - hermits in the caves nearby. However there are no traces of an organized monastery complex. But it is known that in the late 19th century, at least one monk lived in the cave. The cave of Agia Fotini was famous as a hide out during the Cretan Revolution. 

Today, the temple is easily accessible and famous enough to Cretans. Many people go to the cave either for worship or as ordinary visitors. The cave hosts a big festival on the fourth Sunday after Easter. Moreover, a popular festival takes place on the square, located nearby, at a lower level. This square is close to the cavernous church of Saint Anna and Saint John the Theologian, in an idyllic location with view to Langada.

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Additional Info

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

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