The Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa is located 50km southeast of Heraklion, in a wooded area of North Dikti Range, next to the road leading to the Plateau of Lassithi. This is a historic monastery, after which the nearby settlements of Kera and Ano Kera Kera have been named.
The exact date of its foundation is unknown. It is believed that the establishment of the monastery is connected with the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary, after which it takes its name (Kera means Our Lady), which is today located in the Church of San Alfonso in Rome. The icon was drawn by San Lazaro (9th century) and depicts Panagia (Virgin Mary) holding Jesus. According to the tradition, during the iconoclastic Era, this icon was moved to Constantinople, but returned back miraculously. Moreover, during the Venetian Era, the icon was stolen from a wine merchant and moved to Rome, where it is stored till today. In 1735, the icon was replaced by another one, which is also considered miraculous.
The beautiful stone-built church of the monastery is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary (celebrates on September 8). The present church is built in four phases. Originally there was a single aisled temple that was later expanded with two rooms and a smaller chapel. Typical are the old frescoes of the 14th century, quite damaged by time.
Because of its fortified position, during the Cretan revolutions, the monastery of Kera served as the revolutionary center of the local province and thus suffered many times of Turkish attacks. Today Kera serves as a nunnery and it is worth a visit, especially if you combine it with a drive to Lassithi Plateau.
- 961-1204: The monastery of Kera is founded, but the exact date is unknown
- 1333: The monastery is mentioned as a fief of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
- 1498: A Greek wine merchant steals the picture of Kera and moves it to the church of St. Matthew in Rome.
- 1720: The monastery becomes Stavropegic, i.e. commanded directly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The family Maganaris undertakes its renovation.
- 1735: The stolen icon is replaced with a copy of it, which is still today in the monastery and considered miraculous.
- 1799: The (old) icon is transferred from St. Matthew in the Monastery of St. Eusebius in Rome.
- 1822: The Turks destroy the monastery, which gets restored soon.
- 1842: The Turks destroy the monastery again.
- 1866-1867: The monastery becomes a base for the Cretan rebels and becomes a target of the Turks.
- 1927: The old icon of the Virgin Mary is transferred from Saint Eusebius of Rome to the Church of San Alfonso in Eskoualino, where it is hosted till today.
- 1982: Thieves steal the miraculous (copied) icon of Our Lady , but get arrested soon.