Arkadi Monastery

Arkadi, the symbol of Cretan will of freedom.
The 8th of November is National Day of Crete with a large procession, which reminds of the dramatic events in the uprising against the Turks of 1866 in Arkadi Monastery.

Arkadi monastery
Arkadi monastery with its magnificent church in the center.

The Arkadi Monastery can be reached from Rethymno by following the old National Road through the eastern suburbs. After 2.75 miles (4.5 km) turn right towards the monastery. The good road passes through the villages of Adele, Kyrianna and Amnantos and after 14 miles (23 km) you will reach in a breathtaking landscape of olive groves with a narrow gorge. When you pass the gorge to the small plateau, which is surrounded by mountains, the lonely monastery lies ahead.

Arkadi Monastery

According to an inscription, the monastery has been founded in the 14th century by a monk named Arkadius and the two-nave monastery church with the most beautiful facade of Crete was completed in 1587. Other – unproven – sources claim it was to have been founded in the 5th century by the Byzantine Emperor Arkadius.

The monastery has fortress-thick exterior walls. Its original church was dedicated to Ayios Konstantinos, but today there are only a few ruins left of it. The magnificent church, which today can be seen in the interior, was built during the 16th century on the place of the old one in the form of a two-aisled basilica. The north aisle is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ and the southern part to Ayios Konstantinos and Ayia Eleni.

On 1st May 1866, about 1,500 rebels gathered inside the monastery and founded a Cretan revolutionary committee. Ismael Pasha of Rethymno demanded that the abbot of the monastery, Igoumenos Gavriel, should dissolve the committee and withdrawal the freedom fighters, otherwise he would destroy it. After the abbot had refused, the Pasha attacked the monastery with 15,000 soldiers and 30 guns from November 7 to 9.

It was a completely unequal fight, because among the 924 people inside Arkadi monastery, there were only 325 fighters. Pardon was not to expect, and so the Cretans voted whether they prefer death or capture.
The next day, as the Turkish soldiers stormed the gate, Kostas Yiaboudakis fired his pistol into the powder magazine, where most of the trapped people were crowded together. The explosion also killed numerous Turks. 36 unarmed people, who had retreated to the refectory, were slain by the enraged Turks.

By evening, 750 Cretans and about twice as many Turks were killed. The bones of many of the dead are now in an open tomb opposite the entrance of the Arkadi Monastery and still could be seen on many parts of the building the tracks and margins of the struggle.

November 8 is now Crete’s national holiday with a large procession commemorating the dramatic events of the 1866 uprising against the Turks at Arkadi Monastery.

Video about Arkadi Monastery

Video of the outer walls and the entrance area as well as the access road through the narrow gorge up to the Monastery of Arkadi.


map creteLink to map with directions:
Click here: Directions Arkadi Monastery.

Please share this:

2 thoughts on “Arkadi Monastery”

  1. Sharon Brubacher

    Is there a ceremony commemorating the tragedy this year (2021)? Is it on Sunday the 7th or Monday the 8th? and are outsiders (Canadians in this case) welcome? We’d love to go but can’t find anything about it this year but a foot race. Any advice?

    1. The grand procession is always on November 8. Was planning to go also there this year to take new pics from the procession, but there are now very strange COVID-Rules in Greece and you need probably a vaccination document or COVID-test, so I decided to better wait for next year before going on a 2 x 1.5 hrs trip without great results.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Crete Tip
Scroll to Top