Caves in Crete

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Cave of Saint John The Hermit at Akrotiri
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The Cave of St. John the Hermit or Xenos in Avlaki Gorge, in Akrotiri, is located just a few hundred meters away from Arkoudospilios. This is located near the abandoned Katholiko Monastery and Gouverneto monastery. Similarly to Arkoudospilios this was a riverbed with a total length of about 135 meters, forming a horizontal room. Its rich decoration is characterized by large stalactites and stalagmites.

At the beginning and the end of the cave there are icons and candles. There is also a carved underground tank with coating, created to collect water. To the right of the gallery, after 15 meters from the entrance, there is a small room with an artificial entrance, where some human bones have been found, probably belonging to a hermit. At the end of the cave, there is a big stone basin, which is told to have been the tomb of St. John the Hermit. Even today, hermitages exist in the nearby vertical walls of the gorge.

The legend says that St. John the Hermit came from Egypt and was living in Azogires area, when he was enchanted by the beauty of the cave and decided to leave the 98 Fathers who stayed in Azogires (16th century according to one version).

Saint John is said to be the founder of the Katholiko Monastery, perhaps the oldest monastery in Crete (maybe 6 or 7 century AD). While praying, he hit his stick of the rock and from then sanctified water started flowing. The spring does not dry up, whatever quantity people get. Blind, deaf, kidney patients have been cured with that water, according to the legend.

He lived in the area and was wandering in the rocks, naked like a wild animal. He was eating greens and carobs. His hardships tired his body and he could no longer walk upright, so he bent his body, looking like an animal. One day a hunter hit Saint John accidentally with his arrows, thinking that he was an animal. Saint John, before dying, asked the hunter to move him and die in the cave. This how it is supposed that his bones were found on a rock at the end of the cave, at the “Bed of Saint John”. This rock is said to have therapeutic identities, thus it was usual to see Christians breaking small parts out of it. There is a small church dedicated to the Saint, built on the right of entry. It celebrates on October 7.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Chania Prefecture
  • Type: Horizontal Cave, With archaeological importance
  • Water: Water all year round
  • Length (m): 135
  • Accessibility: Walking

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