Church of Saint Anthony


Church of Saint Anthony at Fotinos
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No other place of the whole planet hosts so many cavernous churches like Crete, compared to its size. The cult of caves in Crete dates back from the pre-Christian Times and continued after the advent of Christianity. The caves and the rock shelters of Crete are dedicated to many saints but most of them are dedicated to Saint Anthony, the so-called ''Saint of the caves". The entire Crete is full of cave temples but nowhere there is such density of Saint Anthony caves as the prefecture of Rethymnon. In fact throughout the prefecture hosts about 35 caves dedicated to this saint and about another 40 in the rest of Crete. And this is really remarkable, since the prefecture of Rethymno is much smaller than the rest prefectures of Crete.

One of the most beautiful caves dedicated Saint Anthony is located in the village Fotinos in the center of Rethymnon prefecture. This historic village is well hidden in dense oak forest and is named after a general of Nikiforos Fokas, Fotinos. After Nikiforos Fokas liberated Crete from the Arabs, the General Fotinos was awarded the area of the current village. A little further north, there is the village Somatas which also owes its name to another general of Nikiforos Fokas, Somatas. On the north side of the village Fotinos a small and open ravive is formed. At the east side of the gorge there are several caverns and rocks. At their end, we see an oblong rock shelter, able to cover up the whole building. This point was chosen by locals to build this small stone church many years ago. The temple has a spacious outdoor terrace overlooking the ravine. The interior is austere, as in most cavernous churches. There are several icons, with that of St. Anthony in prevailing.

We can reach St. Anthony via a very rough dirt road that starts 300 meters north of the village (while driving on the road going in Armeni), another Rethymnon village that also owes its name to the Armenian soldiers of Nikephoros Phocas who colonized the area. The rough dirt road descends to the bed of the open gorge and reaches the cave of St. Anthony. St. Anthony celebrates every year on January 17 and a festival takes places here. Note that the village of Fotinos in the past hosted another cavernous temple also dedicated to St. Anthony. The second temple has been forgotten and only elderly residents of Fotinou still remember its existence, and when they die, every memory of the worship of the second cave will be lost forever.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Rethymnon Prefecture
  • Type: Church
  • Accessibility: Dirt track

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