Katholiko monastery is located at the mountainous area Arkoudovounia, 20km east of Chania, near the northern shores of Cape Akrotiri or Meleha. It is located inside the gorge Avlaki, at a short distance from the sea. It can be accessed through a stepped and carved cobbled path that starts from the monastery Gouverneto, passes near the church of Saint Anthony (Agios Antonios)Saint Anthony (Agios Antonios) and from the Cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa and ends at the monastery Katholiko. If you keep walking to the sea, you will find yourself in a wonderful small fjord with turquoise waters, where there are the ruins of the old harbor of the monastery.
The monastery complex was founded at the site of the cave where Saint John the Hermit or Xenos died during the 11th century. After the death of Saint John the Hermit, this wider inaccessible area known as Arkoudovounia became one of the most important ascetic centers in Crete. The cave was turned into a temple (it celebrates on September 20) and the surrounding cavities were originally a refuge for the hermits, while later some monk cells were also built.
In the 17th century, in front of the cave, an extensive construction of buildings took place under the supervision of Jeremiah Tzagarolo and with architectural drawings from the works of Sebastiano Serlio, and thus the monastic complex acquired its current impressive form. You can even see the ruined cells of the hermits, the bell tower and the impressive bridge that crosses the river of the gorge, creating a large square that connects the two sides. At the foot of the bridge there are large vaulted storage spaces, while on both sides a two-storey building and a small series of vaulted rooms were built to house the pilgrims.
The cult of Agios Ioannis spread so much in the wider area of Chania, that according to the census of 1637 the income from the pilgrims was one of the largest. This fact is very important, especially if one considers the strenuous course that the visitors had to hike then to approach Katholiko. When the shores of Crete became the target of the pirates, fear prevailed, the monastery was deserted and the monks were forced to move to a more secluded place and thus retired to the monastery Gouverneto. At the exit of the gorge to the sea there is a large rock in a shape reminiscent of a ship and, according to legend, it is a pirate ship that was stoned after the curses of the abbot of Katholiko.
- 10th century: Saint John the Hermit, or Stranger, lives in the cave in the gorge of Avlaki and founds the small monastery.
- 1027: After his death, many hermits and ascetics come to Katholiko and the monastery grows.
- 16th-17th century: Due to the constant pirate raids, the monks leave Katholiko monastery.
- 1632: The Orthodox Church formally declares John the Stranger a Saint. This causes a tremendous growth of monasticism in the region. The buildings we see today in Katholiko monastery were built then.