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Places of worship (3)



Monastery of Toplou

Tel: +30 28430 61226, Fax: +30 28430 61085

  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.

Moni Toplou

  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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