Monastery of Arkadi
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How to get

Arkadi Monastery is a spiritual gem, celebrated throughout Greece, and recognized for its religious significance, stunning architecture, and a history filled with drama.

Historical Glimpse

The exact founding date of Arkadi remains a mystery, with records tracing back to at least the 5th century. Some suggest it was established during the reign of either Byzantine Emperor Heraclius or Emperor Arcadius, after whom it may be named. Another theory attributes its founding to a monk named Arcadios.

During the late 16th century, the Arcadi Monastery underwent significant renovations reflective of the Cretan Renaissance. The cathedral’s construction spanned over two decades. Arcadi flourished culturally and economically, becoming a hub for manuscript preservation until the 17th century. The monastery expanded, adding stables and a dining hall. However, a challenging era dawned for Crete when the Ottoman Empire took control of the island.

In 1648, Turkish invaders plundered a monastery, forcing the monks and the abbot to seek refuge in another religious community. They regained access and the ability to ring the monastery bell only after pledging allegiance to Hüseyin Pasha. Under Ottoman rule, priceless manuscripts and relics were lost forever. Despite this, the monastery thrived for a time, sustained by its expansive lands and agricultural activities. The monks were renowned for their wine and olive oil production.

The monastery of Arkadi faced severe financial troubles, leading to its insolvency. In 1822, it suffered at the hands of Turkish troops who looted it mercilessly. The local community rallied to protect this sacred site. Arkadi was a haven for rebels, a provider of sustenance for Crete’s residents, and a bastion of Christian education.

Decades later, in 1866, the historic Arkadi Monastery became the tragic stage for a fierce conflict between Cretan insurgents and Ottoman forces. Explosions rocked the sanctuary as gunpowder kegs detonated and cannons blasted its structures. Casualties were immense, including non-combatants and children, and irreplaceable religious icons were lost. This catastrophe shook the global community and entered the annals as the «Arkadi Holocaust.»

Following its devastation, the Arkadi Monastery was meticulously rebuilt, mirroring its former glory. Silent witnesses to its past, a charred iconostasis and a cannonball lodged in an ancient cypress tree, remain. The monastery embodies the Cretan struggle for independence.

Sacred Remembrance

A short distance from the monastery, a memorial stands solemnly, honoring the Cretans who sacrificed their lives in 1866 for the liberation of Arkadi. Encased in glass, the remains of the fallen, marked by the scars of battle, are displayed. An inscription proclaims the noblest act is to die for one’s country. This site is now a revered sanctuary for the monastery’s defenders, leaving a lasting impression on visitors. Within the monastery, ancient Byzantine icons also offer a connection to the past.

Navigating Arkadi Monastery

The monastery’s fortress-like appearance, complete with a surrounding wall spanning nearly 5200 square meters and an eastern wall 1.2 meters thick, reflects its turbulent history. Within these walls lies a wealth of structures that make up the monastic complex. The Renaissance-style facade of the magnificent church draws the faithful, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ in the north nave and to Saints Helen and Constantine in the south. An inscription suggests the church was established in 1587. Adorned with masterful architectural details, the church was heavily damaged during a conflict with the Turks. A cypress wood iconostasis, erected in 1902, graces the church today.

In the monastery’s yard, numerous unique structures and notable spots can be found:

  • ·       A tree that still bears the remnant of a cannonball fired by the Turks.
  • ·       The modern monastic museum holding a collection of relics that were preserved from Turkish threats.
  • ·       Visitors can view ecclesiastical vestments, rare icons, the Gospel, manuscripts, and personal items belonging to the abbots, representing a vast timeline from the 5th to the 20th century.
  • ·       St. Arkadius Chapel: A spiritual corner for contemplation.
  • ·       Ancient Wine Cellars: Where vintage tales are bottled.
  • ·       Monastic Cells: Ascetic abodes for the devout.

Refectory: Where communal meals nourished both body and spirit. Visitors can grasp the full extent of Arkadi’s heritage with a brochure, offered in various languages, detailing the significance of each structure.

Nestled in the embrace of Mount Psiloritis' slopes, the Arkadi Monastery lies a mere 25 kilometers southeast of Rethymno, perched at an altitude of 500 meters. A testament to its rich history, the monastery’s underground chambers provided sanctuary to rebels and pilgrims alike, while also serving as a refuge for locals during Turkish invasions. Its charitable legacy includes feeding the impoverished.

How to get

To visit, catch a KTEL bus from the Rethymno station, reaching the monastery within a 30-minute journey.

Transportation leaves every 4 hours, which may not align with your plans for returning to Rethymno. A more flexible option is to arrange a private transfer to Arkadi or rent a car. This way, you won’t be tied to the bus schedule. — The monastery has a gift shop offering religious souvenirs. — Take your time when visiting Arkadi Monastery; a minimum of 3–4 hours is recommended for a full experience.


·       Services are held at the monastery every day. They begin early in the morning at 6 a. m. and later in the evening at 6 p. m.

·       Visitors aren’t strictly required to dress in a particular way at Arkadi Monastery; some even enter in shorts. However, typical Greek monastic tradition prefers modest attire, covering shoulders and knees, and suggests wearing closed-toe shoes.

·       Inside the main temple, taking photographs is prohibited.

·       Parking Space: Available for visitors' vehicles.