The monastery of Panagia Antifonitria is located in the village Miriokefala, 29km south of Rethymno. The monastery does not operate today and is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. It is said to have been founded in the 11th century by St. John Xenos or Hermit. Saint John is well known for establishing several small monasteries across the island.
In the center of the courtyard you will find the small church of the monastery, dedicated to the Panagia (Virgin Mary), celebrating on September 8 and 12. It is decorated with frescoes of the 11th and 13th century. After the conquest of Crete by the Venetians, the monastery flourished and declined int the Turkish Era. Today it does not operate as a monastery, but its temple is the parish church of Miriokefala village. Around the abbey, there are some ruins of the monks’ cells and some restored buildings.
It is said that John Xenos brought all ecclesiastical equipment (utensils, icons, etc.) to the monastery from Constantinople, but nothing has survived now.
The bush and the icon of Panagia
It is said that once John Xenos wandered around Miriokefala, he came across and a huge bramble on his way. He set fire in order to open the way, but he suddenly heard a voice "Here I am!". He then found the icon of the Panagia, who was hidden there. Thus, John founded the monastery of Panagia (Virgin Mary). He named that Antifonitria (i.e. shouting), because she was shouting "here I am." Locals believe that this miraculous icon is that one stored in the monastery today, but the current one is newer (18th century).
- 1010-1020: St. John Xenos or Hermit founds the monastery of Panagia Antifonitria in Miriokefala.
- 1030: St John brings some valuable relics from Constantinople, after getting authorization by the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch.
- 1770: The Turks destroy the monastery.
- 1830: The abbot of the monastery in Roustika, Hadji Matheos, restores the monastery of Panagia.
- 1900: The monastery stops its operation.
- 1970: The frescoes of the monastery are revealed, hidden under wall plaster and whitewash!