Religious Monuments of Province


Church of Saint Ambrose at Kalloni
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7th of December is the feast day of Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Mediolan (Milan). Throughout Crete there is only one unique church dedicated to Saint Ambrose (Agios Ambrosios). This saint is honored by the Catholic Church and for this reason there are no temples in Greece. The only one that exists throughout Crete and perhaps throughout Greek Orthodox Church is at the village of Kalloni, Heraklion.

This is the parish church of the village which is two-naved. The other aisle is dedicated to Saint Nicholas , who is also the patron saint of Kalloni village. Inside the temple, Saint Ambrose is depicted in a small icon on the side of Saint Nicholas bearing the tiara of the Catholics in his head.

The village name Kalloni was changed in 1926 from Skillou , from a villager that lived for some years in Kalloni, Lesvos island. When he returned to his birthplace, he urged his fellow villagers to abandon the malicious primitive name Skyllou (sound like dog in Greek) and adopt Kalloni (means very beautiful). The icon of the Virgin Mary on the iconostasis on the back of the church reads To village Killou.

The initial aisle of the church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), is neoclassical and was built during the last decades of the Turkish occupation in Crete (late 19th century). From that time on, it was highly honored and on the feast day (December 6th), the whole village was celebrating and having a great feast, while consuming wine.

The Turks and the wine

Drinking wine on St. Nicholas feast day was an insult for the Muslims of the village, which was not purely Christian at that time because wine was forbidden to them. So the Turks went to the place where the Christians were gathered and threatened that if they would celebrate another year and drink wine, they will destroy the temple and kill them.

However, the Christians of Skillou, fearing that sooner or later the Ottomans would leave Crete, decided to provoke the Turks' anger. So, they searched the calendar and found that the day after Saint Nicholas' Day there was a celebration of the unknown Saint Ambrose. They then decided to add a second aisle to the temple and dedicate it to Saint Ambrose, who is celebrating the following day (December 7th). Thus the feast would take now two days and they would drink twice as much wine, thus this is how this unknown saint was honored in Kalloni.

Seeing their determination, the Ottomans never disturbed them. On St. Ambrose Day there is a tradition that people visit one of the houses of the village, accompanied by the priest and his wife, where the housewife always offers fish soup. Today in the village of Kalloni there are several men named Ambrosios, a name which is not found anywhere else in Crete.

Source: Christopher Cheiladakis

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Additional Info

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

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