The Ascetic Tradition in Crete


The greatest hermitage in Crete was the naturally isolated, and impassable range of Asterousia in current southern Heraklion prefecture, where Saint Paul is said to have stayed for two years. Many caves from Saint Nikitas to Cape Lithino still host hermits. Relations between them were so limited that in Agiofarago and Martsalo they gathered only once a year, in cave Goumenospilios and counted how many of them survived each year.

Early Christian basilica of Lendas

Lendas is a remote seaside settlement located in the imposing Asterousia 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.


Zoodochos Pigi Monastery at Kapetaniana

In the wild Asterousia Mountains and on the dirt road that leads from Kapetaniana to Tripiti we meet the old chapel of Panagia Zoodochos Pigi (Life-Giving Spring). The church was the central temple of a small monastery of the 13th century that developed very close to a small water source.


Agios Nikitas monastery


Agios Nikitas is located 65km south of Heraklion, on the east side of the wild and arid Asterousia Mountains. The monastery was originally a hermitage for monks from the monastery of Koudoumas. It is built on a high hill with breathtaking views to the Libyan Sea. The church of the monastery, dedicated to St. Nikitas (feast September 15), is built in a cave and dates back in 1640.


Koudoumas monastery

Koudoumas monastery is located at the exit of Katarraktis gorge in Asterousia Mountains, 80km south of Iraklion and only 40m from a beautiful beach. It is one of the most secluded monasteries of Crete, as access from Heraklion requires 2.5 hours. There is a safe 24km long dirt road that starts from the village Sternes (accessible from Charakas), at an altitude of 1000m near the peak Kofinas (1231m).


Apezanes Monastery in Antiskari

The Monastery of St. Anthony in Apezanes or Apezana is built on a rocky plateau of Asterousia Mountains, at an altitude of 440m, approximately 63km south of Heraklion. From there starts a short valley that leads from Antiskari village to the beachfront of Platia Peramata.


Odigitria Monastery near Sivas

Odigitria Monastery is a male monastery located in a protected position of Asterousia Mountains, at an altitude of 250m. The monastery can be accessed through the village of Sivas in Messara Plain. It is one the most historic monasteries in Crete, known for its huge estate, with several chapels and vast land property in Asterousia Mountains.


Goumenospilios Cave

Goumenospilios is a very small cave located in Agiofarago Gorge, about 80km south of Heraklion. Its entrance is very small, but the inner is very spacious, with a lighting hole on the roof. The cave has no decor, but is nonetheless legendary.


Saint Anthony Cave, Koudoumas

On the trail leading from Agios Ioannis to Koudoumas monastery we meet an impressive cave, shaped Δ, in which there is the small church of Saint Anthony. The cave hosts stalagmites and stalactites. One stalactite, has the shape of Saint Anthony, and a pit where there is an icon of St. Anthony. The cave was used as a residence of hermits.


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