Koudoumas monastery is located at the exit of Katarraktis gorge in Asterousia Mountains, 80km south of Iraklion and only 40m from a beautiful beach. It is one of the most secluded monasteries of Crete, as access from Heraklion requires 2.5 hours. There is a safe 24km long dirt road that starts from the village Sternes (accessible from Charakas), at an altitude of 1000m near the peak Kofinas (1231m). During the descent to the sea level the views to the sea are amazing (and frightening too) as the cliffs cause vertigo! Along the road you will see the pine grove of Koudoumas and many goats standing on the bare sharp rocks.
Amid this purely Cretan landscape, you will find the old male monastery of Koudoumas. The church, built inside a cave, is dedicated to the Assumption (celebr. August 15). The area is full of caves, many of which are still inhabited by the hermits. From the monastery starts an interesting trail that leads to the cave of St. Anthony and another one that leads to Avvakospilios Cave. Moreover, some lovers of Cretan nature prefer reaching Koudoumas by walking along the path that starts from Sternes (3 hours) and passes through beautiful pine grove.
Koudoumas name probably derives from the founder of the monastery. Indeed, a Venetian document of 1280 mentions the surname Cudhumano, possibly related to Koudoumas. The monastery in its present form was built in 1870 by the monks Parthenios and Eumenios Charitakis, on the site of the ruined monastery. The monastery was abandoned till then, like all seaside monasteries of Crete, because of the frequent pirate raids on the coasts of Crete in the 15th century.
Koudoumas celebrates on August 15, when pilgrims arrive from all over Messara area. Most of them come on August 14 and spend their night either in the guest rooms or on the beach. Moreover, the monastery celebrates on July 10 in honor of the monks Eumenios and Pathenios, who re-established the monastery, and have been recognized as Saints.
Monastery Koudoumas houses the icon of Our Lady of Kykkos of Dexiokratousa (i.e. Right Hand Holding), found in the house of Ali Pasha in Ioannina and donated to the monastery by Helen Skandalaki in 1957. Also, a chapel houses the icon of the Visitation, which is connected to a miracle of 1940 (see history section below).
The monks, perhaps the most hospitable in Crete, offer accommodation to anyone for the night. In fact many locals live here all summer, in the small guest rooms of the monastery, where they have all the basic amenities (kitchen, water, bath, etc.). The monastery complex also consists of a welcome room, a refectory, a library, a small museum, the monks' cells, etc.
- 1280: A document mentions the name Cudhumano, which is probably the surname of the founder of Koudoumas monastery.
- 14th century: A document mentions the existence of the monastery and a small school.
- 15th century: The frequent pirate raids against the coastline of Crete, forces the monks to abandon Koudoumas and move to the mainland. The monastery gets deserted for 4 centuries.
- 1870: The monks Eumenios and Parthenios Haritakis restore (and extend) the ruined complex of Koudoumas.
- 1940: The Germans try to turn the monastery into a German post. Due to a miracle (a German shot against the icon of Presentation and the bullet ostracized), the Germans leave the monastery. The monastery, except the church, is damaged.
- 1957: Helen Skandalaki donates the icon of Our Lady of Kykkos or Dexiokratousa to Koudoumas monastery.