After the liberation of Crete by Nicephorus Phocas from the Arabs in 961 AD, followed a period of cultural renaissance, which is reflected on the monuments of the period and which continued during the Venetian rule.
Most large and small monasteries operating today were established in that period. Apart from serving religious needs, most of them played an important role during the struggles of Cretans for liberation, especially after the conquest of Crete by the Ottomans.
Monasteries were the only places where Christians could find shelter and organize their military operations. Suspicious of the supportive action of monks, the Ottomans destroyed several monasteries that functioned as revolutionary centers.
Even today, visitors admire the story of the Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery in 1866. Then, the besieged Christians decided to blow up the powder keg in order not to surrender to the Ottomans. All the monasteries of that time have similar stories to tell.
Chania hosts some of the finest masterpieces of monastic architecture in Greece. The monasteries of the Holy Trinity and Tzagaroli at Akrotiri cape, Chrysoskalitissa and Gonia Odigitria are exquisite samples. Equally impressive are the restored monasteries of Saint George at Karydi, Chrysopigi, Kalogrades at Akrotiri and Santa Kyriaki. Significant former monasteries are the monasteries of Katholiko, Saint Anthony and Saint John Pazinos at Akrotiri, Saint George Charodias, Saint Eleftherios at Mournies, the old monasteries of Saint John, Saint Paul and Saint George at Spatha, Azogyres and many others. Most monasteries in Crete are open to visitors. There are certain opening hours and visitors should be decently dressed. Arkadi Monastery is the most famous monastery in Crete both due to its excellent fortified architecture and because it is a symbol for the liberation of Crete from the Ottomans after the holocaust of 1866. There are more important monasteries around Rethymnon, such as Preveli, Santa Irene, Prophet Elijah in Roustika, Katevati and Arsani. Milopotamos province developed a very important monastic tradition and is home to the beautiful monasteries Vosakos, Chalepa, Diskouri and Attali. Some of the most famous abandoned monuments in Rethymno are the monasteries Halevi, Saint Peter in Gallos, Kaloidena by Ano Meros, Saint Anthony in Veni and the School of Asomati in Amari. Heraklion is home to some of the oldest monasteries in Crete, including the important monasteries of Agarathos, Paliani by Venerato, Vrondissi by Vorizia, Saint George Epanosifis, Saint George Gorgolainis by Asites, Saint Panteleimon by Fodele, Panagia Odigitria by Sivas, Kallergis by Kastelli, Saint Anthony by Arvi, Santa Pelagia by Ahlada and Apezana by Antiskari. The area west of Heraklion is a thriving religious enclave with the monasteries of Savvatiana, Rogdia, Santa Fotini, Pantanassa and Saint Theodore, all located nearby. The nunnery of Panagia Kera Kardiotissa dominates the foot of the Lassithi range, while Psiloritis hosts the monasteries of Santa Irene by Kroussonas and All Saints in Loutraki. The monastery of Agia Marina in Vonni is the largest pilgrimage in Crete. Lastly, the visitor could also visit the monasteries of Kalyviani by Mires, Saint John by Anopolis, Panagia Theogennitor by Mohos and many others. The most famous monastery in Lassithi is Toplou by Itanos, which reminds of an impregnable fortress. Other monasteries that are open to visitors are the monasteries Kapsas by Goudouras, Faneromeni by Gournia, Faneromeni by Skopi, Exakousti by Malles and the monasteries of Lassithi Plateau, namely Vidiani and Kroustalenia. The area of Mirabello hosted the largest number of monasteries in Crete. Today monasteries that still operate are Areti by Fourni, Kremasta and Koufi Petra by Neapolis and Saint George Selinaris. Ierapetra is home to the modern monasteries Axion Esti and Ayiasmenos.
The Holy Monastery of St. Anthony is located at position Katevati, 6 km from the village Akoumia, at an altitude of 525m. To reach the monastery you must travel 15 minutes by car on a dirt road from Akoumia.
The Monastery of Prophet Elijah (Profitis Elias) is built above a hill with panoramic views, 20km south of Rethymno, next to Roustika village. It is a relatively unknown monastery throughout Crete, although it was founded in the Venetian Era and belongs to the most historic convents of the island.
The Monastery Attali or Bai is built over the hill of Agia Ypakoi, west of Bali, with panoramic sea views to the sea and close to the main road connecting Rethymnon to Heraklion. The region was isolated till 1970, when the highway was constructed, and thus monasticism and asceticism flourished till then.
The Monastery of the Agio Pnevma (Holy Spirit) was probably founded in the 12th century and certainly at the end of Venetian rule it was already autonomous and in welfare. On June 15, 1821 the local Turks massacred the monks and burned the monastery.
The monastery of Holy Cross in Vosako is built in a small plateau between the peaks Koutroulis and Mesokofinas of the Talean Mountains, 50km east of Rethymno. The monastery can be accessed by car via the village Doxaro and the rough landscape is amazing. There is a second road starting from Sisses village.
The monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalitissa is located 72km south of Chania, very close to the magnificent lagoon of Elafonissi. It operates as a nunnery and reminds of a fortress, perched on a 35m high rock with boundless sea views.
The monastery of Agia Kyriaki is located 12km south of Chania, near Varypetro. In 1992 the monastery was a set of ruins, but has since then it has been restored and now it is a scenic monastery of Crete.
The monastery complex, a dependency of the monastery of Megisti Lavra at Athos, has been declared a historical monument. It consists of neoclassical buildings that surround the one-aisledtemple that was reconstructed in the 19th century. The complex consists of cells and rooms for storing crops.