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Byzantine Churches on Crete
There are at least 300 registered Byzantine churches scattered around Crete. Some sources state that there are 300
Byzantine churches in Chania Prefecture alone.
The Greek Orthodox religion is practised by around 97% of the population of Crete. Crete's ecclesiastical heritage
is immense and reflects the passion with which the Cretans have celebrated their Eastern Orthodoxy for over 1600
The wealth of Byzantine remains are immense with some churches and cathedrals dating from as early as the 6th Century A.D. such as St Titus Cathedral at Gortys in the South of Heraklion Prefecture.
The first Byzantine Period on Crete lasted from 330-824 A.D. The remains of the Cathedral at Gortyn (Gortys) are
from this period, while the second Byzantine Period on Crete lasted from 961 to 1204 A.D. The Church of Zoothochos
Pigi between Alikianos and Kouphos in Kydonia and St Paul's in Sfakia are examples from this period.
St Titus Cathedral, Gortys, Heraklion
Many of the beautiful Byzantine Churches around Crete can be visited, many of which are still in use today. Not only
do they show the architecture of these ancient places of worship but also the richness of artwork with which they
were decorated. Richly coloured frescoes and icons still survive in many of these churches.
When visiting please respect these sites as living places of worship and do not take photographs if photography is
forbidden. The frescoes and icons are ancient and delicate and have to be protected from bright light so flash
photography is not allowed.
Agios Nikolaos, Kyriakoselia, Chania
A fine example of a Byzantine church is Agios Nikolaos (ο Ναός του Αγ. Νικολάου), an 11th century church, in
Kyriakoselia, Apokorona in the Chania Prefecture. It is situated in the bottom of a valley on a quiet rural road
with sheep often grazing at its gates. If you visit when the church is closed, you can obtain the key from the
Kafenio at Samonas village, just a short distance away.
Other churches by area include:
Panagia Kera at Kritsa with its ancient frescoes.
Presentation of the Virgin Mary, Fodele, Heraklion
Cathedral and Church of St Minas; Church of St Titus (B); Church of St Mark (V), Church of St Catherine all in Heraklion; Church of Michael the Archangel (B) near Arkalochori; Church of Profitis Ilias at Arkalochori; Church of Panagia Kera at Kroussanos; Church of St George near Vori; Church of St John the Baptist near Vori; Agios Panteleimon at Bitzariano near Kastelli; Agios Georgios at Xithas (B)
Aghios Evtichios, Chromonastiri, Rethymnon
Over 300 churches including: The Agios Ioannis Antzoussis church situated 3 kilometres west of Rethymno Town, which is believed to be the oldest
church of the island; The Church of Panagia Lambrinis; The Church of Panagia Thronou; The Church of Agios
Eftychios; Panagia Roustica; The Early Christian Basilica of Vizari from the First Byzantine Period, built around
the 7th Century; The Church of Agios Ioannis in the village of Gerakaki; The Panormos Basilica.
Chania:In the Chania Prefecture it is said that over 300 Byzantine Churches are preserved:
The Cathedral of Chania, Agioi Anargyroi Church can be found behind the Odeon, a charming church in the city of
Chania. It was the first cathedral of Crete and the only one to continue functioning during the Turkish Ottoman
occupation. The church contains superb Byzantine frescoes and icons; Saint Magdalene Church in Chania; Rotonda
Church, the former See of the Bishop of Kissamos.
Together with churches built during the Venetian period and since, there are over 5000 churches on Crete.
Visitors will also notice the sheer number of tiny churches and chapels scattered around Crete. Some small villages
can have 2 or more churches, their original church and its modern counterpart plus additional churches.
Churches can be seen in the most isolated of places including on mountain tops, miles away from roads and villages
in areas of wilderness, in gorges and in caves.
Early Christian Basilica of Vizari, Rethymnon
Where there are many churches in a small area, some of these will have been erected by individuals in thanks for a
prayer answered, in memory of a loved one who has departed or as acts of piety.
Every church, however small and isolated it may be, will be used for worship at least once per year on the name day
of its dedicated Saint. See our Greek Name Days page. (Available soon)
Many of these tiny churches will also form part of a pilgrimage for visitors and tourists. More often than not you
will find these small churches open and you are welcome to visit and rest a time or light a candle in your own
private act of worship.
Another feature which can arouse the curiosity of the visitor are the roadside shrines which you can see along many
roads and tracks around Crete. These shrines known as Iconostases, can commemorate an individual who died on that
spot but more often they are erected in thanks for an accident in which there were no fatalities. If they are
memorials to a loved one they will contain a photograph of the individual as well as an oil lamp and icons to their
Patron Saint, in the case of those erected to give thanks to God and their Patron Saint for the avoidance of an
accident, they contain icons and an oil lamp but no photograph.
Agios Antonios, Patsos Gorge, Rethymnon
Cave churches are found throughout Crete including: Agia Sofia, near Topolia with fantastic views of the Topolia
Gorge in Chania; Agios Antonios, at the beginning of the beautiful Patsos Gorge in Rethymnon; and Milatos Cave near
the village of the same name which contains a church dedicated to the Apostle Thomas which was built in 1935.
B - Byzantine
V - Venetian
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Books can be purchased online by clicking on the links below :
Churches on Crete
Byzantine Churches on Crete
Map of Byzantine Churches on Crete