The nunnery of Paliani is located at an altitude of 280m, next to the villages Avgeniki and Venerato, 20km southwest of Heraklion and east of the wild Venerato Gorge. The monastery is dedicated to the Assumption and celebrates on August 15. The monastery of Paliani is considered one of the oldest monasteries in Crete, but the exact date of its establishment is not verified. What is really interesting is to see the sacred Myrtle tree in the churchyard that is associated with the identification of an icon of Virgin Mary and is warshiped; this tree is considered a relic of the Minoan dendrolatry (tree warship).
The name is associated with the name Palia Moni (Old Monastery). However, there is a second version, according to which the name Paliani is linked to Apolonia, an ancient city that was located very close to Venerato. The monastery was patriarchal and for several periods it had enormous wealth and many dependencies (smaller monasteries and churches). Especially during the Ottoman period, Paliani struggled to survive, as it was destroyed by the Ottomans and the nuns were massacred. It was restored very quickly and since then it is classified in the richest monasteries in Crete.
The main church is a basilica with three aisles dedicated to the Assumption (celebr. 15 August), the Three Hierarchs (30 January) and St. Panteleimon (27 July). Also there's a seperate small chapel of the Holy Apostles (30 June). The main temple was initially supported by ancient columns of Byzantine style with acanthus leaves, parts of which are scattered in the monastery yard. Generally, you will see marble parts scattered everywhere belonging to the Byzantine era. Today the monastery has been altered considerably. The temple is surrounded by the nun cells and auxiliary rooms, while the visitor can still discern traces of the fortress wall that protected Paliani. Paliani also owns the very old Byzantine church of St. John with frescoes of the 14th century. The monastery operates a museum with icons, relics and several books of great historical and archaeological value. The monastery is open from sunrise to sundown to everyone.
- 450-550: The monastery of Paliani is founded next to the town Apolonia and possibly on the site of an old temple of Athena.
- 668: The Pope of Rome declares that the Old Monastery should return to the Diocese of Lappa. It is interesting that even then, the monastery is called Old!
- 961-1204: During the second Byzantine Period, the monastery is managed by the patriarch and is imperial (imperialium). It acquires great property.
- 1304: Pope Clement D grants Paliani to the Latin archbishop of Crete, despite the efforts of the Patriarch. Long lasting contradictions start.
- 1323: Paliani is granted to the Doge of Venice and actually returns to Orthodox Chistians.
- June 24, 1821: The Turks completely destroy the monastery and plunder its relics. They kill or send in harems 67 of its 70 nuns, the rest 3 escape.
- 1826: The nun Parthenia Neonaki returns to Paliani and rebuilds it in 1842.
- 1856: A strong earthquake destroys the temple and it is rebuilt with different style.
- 1866: The chieftain Michael Korakas finds refuge in the monastery, after killing the Turkish Alikos. The Turks destroy the monastery, seize the pictures and later the nuns start repairing it.
- 1872: The nun Agathaggeli restores the ruined temple with the fundraisers by the Greeks of Egypt.
- 1970: The old imposing gate is demolished and a new cement one is built at the same place.