The Ascetic Tradition in Crete


Early Christian basilica of Lendas
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Lendas is a remote seaside settlement located in the imposing Asteroussia Mountains, 74km south of Heraklion. The settlement is built on the site of the ancient city of Levena, which flourished in the Greco-Roman years, as the seaport of Gortyn, which was then the most important city of Crete. Levena was known for the sanctuary of Asclepius that operated in the 4th century BC. century.

Just east of the archaeological site of Asclepius and on the road you will see the small Byzantine church of Saint John the Theologian, built from materials of an early Christian Basilica, the existence of which confirms that the city flourished till the Byzantine period. The basilica was three-aisled with a semicircular arch to the east, a narthex and a patio to the west, a baptistery on the outside, with many of its architectural parts coming from ancient Levena. The aisles were separated by two rows of columns, seven in each row, from which only their bases are preserved.

The construction of the basilica is divided into two phases, the first half of the 5th century AD (first timbered-roof basilica) and the middle of the 6th century (when it was rebuilt with similar dimensions). The basilica was destroyed in the 7th century, when it seems that the site had been abandoned for many centuries. It was only during the Venetian occupation in the 14th century that the church of Saint John the Theologian was built on the site of the basilica and later restored in the 20th century.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Church
  • Peak Period: Roman Era (69 BC - 395 AD)
  • Accessibility: Paved road

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