Church of Saint Joasaph

Agios Thomas

Church of Saint Josaphat at Agios Thomas
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The picturesque village of Agios Thomas hosts the only church in all of Crete that honors the memory of Saint Josaphat (Agios Ioasaph). Saint Joasaph or Iosafis as the locals call him, is celebrated every year on the 26th of August. This temple, unique in its kind in entire Crete, is not a typical cave temple, like so many that exist on the island, but it is completely carved by human hand in a massive and impressive stone. The carving technique is reminiscent of temples in Cappadocia.

It is located in the area of Panagia Kera on the road to the settlement of Ardachtia of Agios Thomas, an area that hides many archaeological treasures, such as a carved tomb, a sanctuary or another carved room in use, a phenomenon unique in Crete. The rock that hides the temple of Saint Josaphat probably pre-existed as an ancient tomb of a prominent figure in the ancient city of Pannon, current Agios Thomas, which with the advent of Christianity in Crete was turned into a temple.

Until a few years ago, this church was almost forgotten and left to its fate and only some locals mentioned its name, saying that the specific area hosted a church and in fact was honored in the name of Saint Josaphat. During the German bombing in Crete, many residents of Agios Thomas found a shelter inside the carved temple to keep safe.

In the temple we descend with stone stairs from the main road and just before entering the temple we meet on our right another cave, a natural crevice of great depth, in the limestone rock of the area, which apparently in antiquity was also used for religious purposes. Outside the temple there are very beautiful trees. The interior of the carved rock, although simple, is just as impressive; the Holy Table is also made of stone.

The life of Saint Josaphat is one of the most impressive that exists and moves in the realm of fantasy and reality at the same time. He was a glorious king of India and his life in many places is completely identical with the life of Buddha. But what is really impressive and should be a field of study for archaeologists is the following detail. The only church of Saint Josaphat that exists is in Agios Thomas and this may not be accidental at all. According to the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle Thomas was the one who traveled to India and preached the gospel there. And perhaps it is no coincidence that the Saint, who was king of India, is honored in the unique village named after the Apostle who preached in India, Saint Thomas.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Church
  • Accessibility: Paved road

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