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 Sinai dependency of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) is located between Perivolia and Mournies suburbs of Chania and is one of the 4 independent monasteries of Sinai Saint Catherine Monastery in Crete. The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was founded during the Second Byzantine Period (before 1204) and had a rural character, as evidenced by the monastery (olive mill, warehouse for products, etc).
At the area of Agia Kyriaki, on a rocky hill below the the ruins of the Byzantine fort Kastellos we meet the newly erected monastic buildings of the monastery Chrisopigi located in Chania town This place was blessed with his presence in 2002 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who walked in the trails in the area and laid the foundation stone of the new monastery temple, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ.
The seaside Monastery of Panagia Odigitria is located at the base of the peninsula Spatha, about 26km west of Chania and 2.5km north of Kolimbari. The monastery is also known as Lady of the Angels Monastery of Gonia (Gonia = Corner) due to its location on the western edge-corner of the bay of Chania.
Gouverneto or Gderneto Monastery is located 19km east of Chania, on the north side of the Cape Akrotiri of Chania, near the monastery of Agia Triada Tzagarolon. It can be accessed through the Agia Triada, where there is a sign leading to the Gouverneto.
The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos is a small dependency of Vrondisi monastery, built on Mount Sanida above the village Skourvoula. The old ruined monastery was restored by the monk Iosif Androulakis and reoperated in 2014. The interior of the temple is adorned with nice modern frescoes, while from the courtyard one can admire the nice view to the shores of Messara.
The Foundation of the Holy Cross "St. Raphael" is an informal small monastery at position Tria Kamarakia, next to the highway of Rethymnon - Chania, which is mostlycharity- oriented. The main temple is a three-aisled basilica dedicated to the Neomartyrs (Raphael, Nicholas and Irene), the Holy Cross and Saint Ephrem.
The Monastery of St. John the Baptist is built in position Korakies of Akrotiri, close to the airport of Chania. It is a historic convent which is relatively unknown in Chania.
The monastery of Savatiana or Savvathiana is located in a beautiful wooded and well-protected position near Rogdia, at an altitude of 440m and at a distance of 20km west of the city of Heraklion. The monastery is one of the several monasteries that operated in the area during the Venetian period, which was later mercilessly destroyed by the Turks.