The island of Agioi Theodoroi or Thodorou is located just opposite the beach of Agia Marina in Chania, just half a mile to the north. The history of the island and its ecological importance in preserving the protected species of the Cretan ibex, make this small dot on the map very important.
The island is rocky and covers an area of 69.7 hectares, while its maximum length reaches 3800m. Apart from the island, there is a second islet next to Thodorou, called Glaraki (small gull) or Theodoropoula. Generally, locals refer to the 2 islands by naming both of them simply Theodorou, after the church of Saint Theodori. In the southern part of the island, there is a large arched cave, which makes the island from afar look like a monster with open mouth..
The island, despite its size has a rich history and legends to tell us. Over the centuries, it has changed various names. It was originally called Akytos or Akoition, i.e. not suitable for habitation. It has also been recorded as Letoa or Toullouros. Its present name was given after the three-aisled early-Christian church of Saint Theodore the commander, which is destroyed today. There are still some ruins of the church on the island and another smaller church has been built on the site.
Since the Minoan era, the island was used as a sacred place. Much later, in 1574, the Venetians built a fortress to protect the whole coastline of Platanias from any hostile invasion. In just one year, the Venetians managed to build a polygonal fortress at the top of the island named Turluru and a second one in a lower level and next to the church of Saint Theodore, called Saint Francis. The cost of the castles reached the enormous amount of 21,500 ducats, although there were many Cretans who were forced to drudgery. Later, the Venetians were planning to build a third fort in the north part of Thodorou, but changed their mind later.
In 1645, the Ottomans attacked against the island and occupied it, after a heroic battle against the 70 guards of the fortress. When Turks managed to enter the castle, the head of the guards, Vlassios, in order not to surrender to Turks, set fire to the arsenal and blew all the guards and the Turks that had entered the fort. In 1650 the island returned to the Venetian rule until 1699, when it was turned in to the Ottomans, 30 years after the fall of Candia. The island fell into the hands of Cretans, during the liberation of Crete in 1897. In 1897, a force of the Greek army, led by Timoleon Vassos, went on the island, despite the menacing presence of warships of the Great Powers.
Today, the two forts of Saint Francis and Turluru and the old church of Saint Theodore are severely destroyed. There are some surviving walls and bases of cisterns and auxiliary rooms. Visiting the island is forbidden as it is a nature reserve for the protection of the endangered Cretan ibex. However, every year, during the feast of Saint Theodore, visitors arrive with ferries and boats from Platanias for participating in the festival.
The myth of the creation of Thodorou
Thodorou could not be ignored by the folk legends, especially once the cave on the south side of the island, makes it looks like a monster mouth. It is noteworthy to mention that the locals often refer to the island, as the "Monster."
Many legends are told about the creation of the island. The most common story says that in the early Christian times, the island did not exist at all. One day, the residents saw a huge monster and its baby, approaching Crete, ready to attack. According to some myths, it was a giant bear with its baby.
Then, locals began to throw spears and arrows from afar to kill them, but they kept their furious route to the coast. The terrified women began to pray in Saint Marina and Saint George to survive. Their prayers to saints were heard and both monsters were petrified, creating the two islands of Saint Theodore; Thodorou and Glaraki. The monster was petrified with its mouth open, threatening to devour Cretans.