The Religious monuments of Crete


Church of Panagia in Patsos
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The ruined church of Panagia in the village Patsos, province Amari, is dedicated to the Birth of the Theotokos. The magnificence of the building and the high quality of construction materials and frescoes rank this church as one of the most important in Crete. It is believed to have been a diocese seat during the Venetian occupation, as there is a surviving reference of 1357 for the establishment of an Orthodox bishop.

The temple architecturally belongs to the type of a four-pillar cruciform dome with a broad three-parted narthex, while the arch of the central sanctuary was rectangular and semicircular in the two side sanctuaries. Unfortunately, the roof has collapsed for centuries, but the floor restored in the 16th century remains almost intact.

The church dates to the beginning of the 14th century and has undergone interventions in later times. The church is associated with the most powerful Orthodox Christian family in Crete during the Venetian era, Alexios Kallergis, who were the substantial ruler of the area and financed the construction and decoration of the Orthodox churches. Panagia may have functioned as a monastery, as there is a 17th century testimony referring to the Monastery of Panagia Patsiani (i.e. at Patsos).

The church had exquisite frescoes from the mid-14th century, probably from a Constantinople workshop brought by the Kallergis family to Crete. The frescoes have been badly damaged due to the collapse of the roof and their exposure to the weather conditions. In 1973, several murals were transferred to the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai in Heraklion and in 2011 they were moved to the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon.

The iconographic program includes scenes from the Christological and Mariological cycle, with Our Lady of the Infant in the arch of the sanctuary, possibly Christ the Pantocrator in the dome, the Ascension, the Apostles and hierarchs in the sanctuary. There were also about 10 scenes of the life of Saint Nicholas, one of the most beloved saints in the province of Amari.

According to local tradition, the church had nine domes, which is not confirmed by its architectural design. It also had 101 doors and windows, a number far too much to be true.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Rethymnon Prefecture
  • Type: Church
  • Peak Period: Venetian Era (1204 AD - 1669 AD)
  • Accessibility: Paved road

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