The monastery of Panagia Gouverniotissa is located near the village Potamies, 3km east of Heraklion. Today it operates as a monastery, but the church is used regularly for liturgies. It is built on a small hill with nice views to Potamies valley.
The church, cruciform with a dome, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (celebr. August 15) and is one of the oldest in Crete. It is decorated with great frescoes on various subjects such as Christ the Pantocrator in the dome, the Prophets, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Mary, etc., which make it one of the most important temples with wall paintings in Crete with artistic influences from Constantinople. The icons of the monastery, a wooden icon screen and the door of the temple are today exhibited at the Historical Museum of Heraklion.
According to tradition, the monastery was founded by a Byzantine ruler after 961, when Nicephorus Phocas liberated Crete from the Arabs. However, it is believed to have been founded between the years 1350-1400. The monastery once belonged to the family Magafouris, the descendants of which owned Gouverniotissa for many generations. The last descendant donated the monastery to the Holy Sepulchre, and much later the monastery was abandoned.
Today the monastery, except the church, you will see the ruins of the monks’ cells of the 19th century and some old baking rooms. Moreover, in the area outside the monastery, great concerts take place every summer with some of the best known Greek singers.
- 961: After the liberation of Crete by Nicephorus Phocas, a Byzantine emperor possibly founds the monastery of Panagia Gouverniotissa.
- 1350-1400: Gouverniotissa area is a fief of the Venetian lord Laurentius Manipero.
- 1647-1669: During the siege of Candia, the monk Nikolas Magafouris ensures the favor of the Turks. The monastery detaches many private estates and for several generations it is owned by the family of Magafouris.
- 1826: Michael Magafourakis has no descendants, thus he donates Gouverniotissa to the Holy Sepulchre.
- 1928: The monastery stops its operation and its estates are distributed to local residents.
- 2010: A restoration program of the Byzantine frescoes starts.