Panagia Odigitria is a male monastery located in a protected position of Asterousia Mountains, at an altitude of 250m. The monastery can be accessed through the village Sivas and is one the most historic monasteries in Crete, known for its huge estate, with several chapels and vast land property.
Asterousia was perhaps the most important cradle of asceticism in Crete, developed in the sacred gorges Agiofarago and Martsalo, today belonging to the monastery. The area is also called the Mount Athos of Crete, after the famous monastic state of North Greece. The development of such a strong monastic tradition is linked to the Apostle Paul, who is said that during his trip to Rome, he stopped in the area.
In this sacred place, therefore, the hermits built in the 14th century the monastery of Odigitria. The name probably relates to a copy of the famous icon of the Monastery Odigon in Constantinople, which is attributed to the evangelist Luke and was one of the most famous miraculous icons in the Byzantine Empire. There was also a cross-roofed narthex from the 14th century which preserves its northern part with important frescoes (e.g. two scenes from the synaxari of Agios Antonios and Paul of Thebes and the 16 houses from the Akathist Hymn). Also, the pictorial decoration includes the scene of the monk Gregory with other monks, whom Christ blesses.
The monastery was built like a fortress and part of its wall is still visible. The buildings of the complex surround the central two-aisled church of the monastery, dedicated to the Dormiotion of the Virgin Mary (Kimisis) and the Apostles Peter and Paul. There was a third aisle, dedicated to Saint Fanourios, but it has been demolished. Near the main gate, you will see the legendary Tower of Xopateras with the great story. Moreover, you will see the baking house, the olive mill, the wine press, several warehouses, the cheese cellar, a small well used during the sieges of the monastery, the guest house (the old abbot cell), the abbot cell with the library, the monks' cells and the graves of the abbots of the monastery. Moreover, four icons of the famous Cretan artist Angelos (15th century) have survived till today.
The monastery was housing the brothers Parthenios and Eumenios, who later founded the monastery Koudoumas and today are honored as saints. Moreover, during the Turkish occupation, the monastery was turned to stavropegic (ruled directly by the Patriarch) so as to ensure its property. The monastery owns some of the oldest chapels of Asterousia, with remarkable frescoes. Among them are the cavernous chapel of Agia Kiriaki (celebr. July 7) and the church of Saint Anthony in Agiofarago Gorge, Panagia chapel in Martsalo canyon, the Saints Eftychiani (celebr. 17 August), Saint Andrew (30 November) and Saint John the Baptist ( August 29) in Vathys Lagos position.
- 14th century: According to tradition, Sister Martha founds the monastery of Odigitria
- 1393: A ducal document mentions the monastery of Odigitria, thus it exists alredy.
- 15th Century: The painter Angelo paints the icons of the iconostasis (icon screen) of the church.
- 1568: The monastery is renovated and gets its present form.
- 1648: The monks, led by Abbot Joseph, resist the Turks during the besiege of Candia.
- 1821: The monk Joasaph Xopateras uses the monastery as a base against the Turks.
- 1828: Xopateras is killed during a battle in the monastery and the Turks destroy it. Read about the story of Xopateras.
- 1841: The reconstruction and reorganization of the monastery starts.
- 1844: The monastery becomes stavropegic, i.e. is managed directly by the Patriarchate.
- 1853: The monastery financially supports the establishment of an orphanage in Istanbul, school operating in Crete and the construction of the Metropolitan Temple of Heraklion (the Church of Saint Menas).
- 1862: The brothers Parthenios and Eumenios come to the monastery and live here for some years. Later they found the monastery Koudoumas.
- 1866: The Turks destroy the monastery because of the revolutionary actions of the monks and their abbot, Gerasimos Manidakis. The chieftain of Messara, Michael Korakas hides his children there.
- 1870: The construction of the olive mill and other buildings starts.
- 1882: Michael Korakas visits the monastery of Odigitria for last time.
- 1897: The son of Michael Korakas, Aristotle, finds refuge in the monastery and gets saved from the Turks.
- 1901: The monastery is declared as about to stop operating.
- 1926: After the Asia Minor Catastrophe, much of the monastery’s land (3/5) is shared to locals.
- 1935: The monastery is declared preservable.
- 1941-44: During the German Occupation of Crete, the monastery is a shelter for guerillas. The relics and images are moved to the village Listaros for protection.
- 1974: A long period of restoration of the monastery starts.
- 1977: The monastery is electrified and supplied with water.
- 1989: The Forest Service starts planting trees and fencing the lands of the monastery so as to protect them from the plague of Crete, goats.