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It is a historical monastery
of the 15th century, which collapsed in the earthquake of 1612 and was rebuilt with the financial aid of the Venetians. During the Ottoman
conquest of Crete, the monastery was destroyed and devastated by the Turks. In 1704 the monastery was declared stauropegion. During
the Ottoman occupation there was a school in the monastery, while, after 1870, it was founded there a school of mutual teaching.
The Monastery is enclosed by a fortress.
The main complex of 800 m2 has three floors, which are divided into cells, guest - houses, kitchens, the abbot's residense and warehouses.
The katholicon is a two-aisled church; the northern aisle is dedicated to the Virgin, and the southern posterior aisle, to St John the Theologian.
The monastery' s characteristic bell tower
bears relief crowns and crosses with inscriptions and the date 1558.
The 13th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities carried out works of consolidation and restoration.
In the Monastery, there is also an interesting Museum.
The monastery of Toplou is 16km east of Sitia, on the main road, and
is located on a small plain 160 metres above sea level. Toplou Monastery, or Akrotiriani
Monastery, is an important fortress monastery situated in the eastern part of
Crete. Although it is not known when the monastery started, there are various
documents and seals that point to its existence before the fifteenth century.
Throughout its long history, Toplou has withstood many attacks and occupations
by invading forces. This is partly due to its strategic position. Solidly-built
walls enclosed the monastery. Entry to the interior is through a massive, heavy
door on the western wall. High above the door is the "murderer's hole".
The monks or those who had found refuge inside poured boiling oil or water onto
the heads of the attackers. There was also a cannon to protect the monastery,
hence the name Toplou, Turkish for "with a cannon".
The monastery was a centre for revolutionary meetings and provided shelter for
freedom fighters during the Greek revolution of 1821. As a reprisal, the Turks
hung fourteen monks from the main gate.
During World War II, the monastery was again a place of resistance, this time
against the German forces. The abbot, Gennadios Syllingakis, assisted in the installation
of a wireless transmitter and from here messages were sent to Allied headquarters
in the Middle East. An English officer hid in the monastery and operated the wireless.
When the Germans learned of the activity here, they arrested the abbot and several
monks and later executed them all.
In addition to its noteworthy history, Toplou is famous today for its icon by
Ioannis Kornaros known as "Great Art Thou, O Lord". This depicts sixty-one
scenes from the Orthodox liturgy and dates from 1770. Many other very interesting
Byzantine icons are displayed in the monastery museum.
There is also an important inscription
on the left wall of the entrance to the church which is part of the Arbitration
of Magnesia (132 B.C.) referring to an alliance between Itanos and Ierapytna (see
Itanos). The slab was brought from Itanos for a tomb stone to be used later as
an altar in the small church of Timios Stavros across the road from the monastery.
The Englishman R. Pashley suggested its present position while travelling in Crete
in 1834, having recognised its importance.
The main monastery church is a double-aisled
basilica, consecrated to the Nativity of Our Lady and Agios Ioannis Theologos
(celebrating 8 and 26 September respectively). The church also contains some fourteenth
century frescoes on the north wall and a rare antique carved altar screen.
This text is cited Mar 2003 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.
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