The monastery of Preveli (or Prevelis) is located 37km south of Rethymnon, in a beautiful natural setting on the western slopes of Megalos Potamos (the exit of Kourtaliotiko Gorge) and the palm grove of the area. It includes two separate monasteries which are located 1.7km from each other, the Kato (Lower) Monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos and the Piso (Back) Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos.
The first monastery complex, that the visitor first meets, coming from Rethymnon, is the Kato Monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodomos (St. John the Baptist), which is ruined. It is located near the Megalos Potamos River and the arched bridge of the area. It is an irregular set of buildings with a central courtyard, in the center of which you can see the church of Saint John the Baptist. The church is surrounded by the buildings that housed the dining room, the cooking room, the abbot room, the cells, an olive oil press, warehouses, etc. The monastery was formerly used all year round, as the surrounding areas were ideal for cultivation and farming. However, it was later abandoned, as it was destroyed and looted several times by the various conquerors of Crete.
Unlike Kato Monastery, the Piso Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos operates as a male monastery and is actually the monastery of Preveli. It is built on the rocky cliffs of Mesokorfi Mount, at an altitude of 170m, and has incredible sea views. The complex is built in shape Π, with the two-aisled church of the monastery in its center. The temple has a magnificent icon screen and its two aisles are dedicated to Saint John the Apostle (celebr. May 8) and the Annunciation. Around the church, there are the buildings of the abbot, the dining room, the baking room, the library, the creamery, the wax workshop, the monks' cells, the cemetery, etc.
Many of the valuable objects (sacred vessels, vestments, gospels) and icons are exhibited in a small museum, inside the monastery. A large number of icons (16th-20th century) have been collected from Kato Monastery, Piso Monastery, and various chapels owned by Preveli.
The exact date of the monastery's founding is unknown, but there are indications that there was a small monastery in the 10th-century monastery. According to tradition, the monastery takes its name after a murderer coming from Preveliana village, who left his home and was installed here in the 16th century. However, it is likely that the monastery takes its name from Akakios Prevelis, who renovated the monastery in 1670.
Preveli has linked its name with the participation of its monks in each of the liberation struggles of Cretans. One of the greatest personalities of Crete was the abbot of the monastery, Melchizedek Tsouderos (1803-1823). Melchizedek was a member of the Society of Friends (a secret organization. Its purpose was to overthrow Ottoman rule over Greece) and first organized the revolution of 1821 in Crete. He took part in several battles, but he was killed heroically in 1823.
During the German occupation (the 1940s), the monastery hosted more than 5000 allies who fought in the Battle of Crete. Indeed, near Perth of Australia, there is a tourist village and a monastery named Prevelly, founded by -the survivor and forever grateful to Preveli monks- veteran soldier, Geoffrey Edwards.
Moreover, Preveli is famous for the Holy Cross (Timios Stavros) stored in the temple, which was donated by Abbot Effraim Prevelis and is considered miraculous. The cross bears part of the True Cross at its base and comes from Constantinople. According to tradition, during the battle of Amourgeles in Heraklion (1823), the Cross fell to the Turks who sold it to some Genoese pirates. When in November of the same year they sailed near Preveli Lake, the ship stopped although the weather was windy. For three days, the ship could not move, until the pirates delivered the Cross to the monks. Moreover, when the Nazis captured the monks of Preveli in 1941, they took the cross. However, the plane that was about to carry the cross to Germany, could not take off with no explanation. Once the Germans delivered the Holy Cross to the police station of Chania, the plane took off.
- 10th-11th Century: Kato monastery is founded
- 16th century: Piso monastery (main Preveli Monastery) is founded
- 1646: The Turks destroy the monastery of Kato Moni.
- 1670: The monk Akakios Preveli comes to Preveli and restores the monastery. The ruins of his cell, called “Prevelis’ cell”, still survive.
- 17th century: A document of the era refers to the monastery with the name "Monastery of Megalos Potamos", after the nearby river of Megalos Potamos.
- 1701: The fountain is built, as proved by the date on the inscription. The second aisle is added.
- 1770: During the revolution of 1770, the Turks destroy Preveli monasteries.
- 1789: The Patriarch Gregory V proclaims the monastery as Stavropegic (i.e. directly managed by the Patriarchate).
- 1810: An earthquake causes serious damage.
- 1814-16: Restoration works take place in the monastery.
- May 24, 1821: The first flag of the Revolution of 1821 on Crete is hoisted by the abbot of Preveli, Melchizedek Tsouderos.
- February 5, 1823: The abbot Melchizedek Tsouderos dies in a battle with the Turks in Polemarchi. Later, Psarosmailis raids the monastery and destroys that.
- 1823: The new Abbot Nilos Moschovitis starts the renovation of the Piso monastery.
- 1831: The old school reoperates.
- 1835: The current two-aisled church is built on the position of an earlier temple.
- 1841: The painter Merkourios from Santorini draws many icons of Kato Monastery, which are now exhibited in the museum of Piso Monastery.
- 1850: Preveli monastery undertakes the building of the magnificent arched bridge over the Megalos Potamos River.
- 1852: Preveli undertakes the construction of the nearby bridge of the Bourtzoukos River.
- 1866: The monastery provides shelter for the Cretan rebels, while 14 monks participate in battles.
- 1867: The monastery is destroyed completely by the Turkish soldiers of Resit Pasha.
- 1897: The reconstruction of the monastery starts.
- 1900: The current abbot is built and the old one turns into a guesthouse.
- 1911: Piso Monastery is renovated.
- 1941: After the Battle of Crete and the establishment of the German occupation, the monastery hosts more than 5000 soldiers of Allied forces, waiting for submarines to move them to Egypt.
- August 25, 1941: The Germans destroy the monastery and many monks are sent captives to the prison of Chania. They also steal the Holy Cross of Preveli.
- September 13, 1941: The plane about to carry the Holy Cross in Germany cannot take off. The Germans deliver the cross to the local police and the airplane manages to fly!
- 1943: The monks of the monastery return back.
- 1970: The Kato Preveli monastery is abandoned.
- 1980: Unknown people cause severe damage to the abandoned Kato monastery.
- 1979: The veteran of World War II, Geoffrey Edwards, founds the monastery of St. John Prevelis in southwestern Australia due to gratitude for the hospitality of the monks after the Battle of Crete.
- 2010: A big fire burns down the beautiful palm grove and the monastery is threatened by the fire.
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