Orthodox Spirituality at Agios Miron Cave Cell



A Drop of History and Orthodox Spirituality at Agios Miron Hermitage 


 20 km southwest of Heraklion, on a route that winds through the hills with vineyards and olive groves, the village of Agios Myron /St. Miron lays, located at 440 m altitude, in a superb geographical setting. The village has an ancient history and an important significance for the Christian - Orthodox world, being the place where was born and lived, in the 3rd-4th century AD, the one who was to be elevated to the rank of Bishop of Crete and later, canonized as Saint Miron, the wonderworker.

Agios Myron Church and Cave, Place of Pilgrimage and Prayer

 The town, built on the ruins of the ancient city of Rauko/Rafko, was first attested as Agios Myron, in Venetian documents from 1281, since then appearing with the same name in various official documents and censuses, to this day.


 

 On a terraced hill, stands the Church of Agios Myron, a historical monument from the 11th century (some sources say that even older, dating from the early Byzantine period), in which are located the icon, tomb, and relics of Saint Miron, dating back over 16 centuries.

From the courtyard of the church, descending on an alley, one reaches the Holly cell of the Saint, a natural cave in the basalt rock, from which healing water gushes.

Saint Miron, the Bishop, the Ascetic and the Wonderworker

 There are not too many recorded testimonies about the Saint's life. It is said that he was born around 250 AD in a family of Christian believers. Despite the times of persecution of Christians, the religious education received strengthened his faith in God and multiplied his graces. In his youth, being married, Saint Miron was a hardworking farmer, admired in the community for his virtuous life, as an example of a good Christian, wise, altruistic, and loving person.

 After the death of his wife, the Christian believers urged him to accept the ordination as a priest, and later they elected him bishop of the Gortys (the capital of the Roman province of Crete at that time) and of the Knossos - and, hence, the name under which the Church Orthodox commemorates him today, the Bishop of Crete. It is also said that he lived for a hundred years, until about 350 AD, leading an ascetic life in his cave cell and being blessed by God with the grace to work wonders.


 

 Some of the miracles of his life are present in local legends. It is said that while he was the bishop, the Saint would have saved the city from a devastating flood, temporarily stopping the Triton River (present-day Kerteros) and walking through its dry riverbed. Another time, when a weird creature, a dragon, began to haunt the city, scaring the inhabitants, the Saint transformed it into a stone, spreading its body, under the eyes of the parishioners present at the Holy Mass. This story is also on a memorial plaque from the entrance to the hermitage, written in Greek and, interestingly, in a corner of the cave, there is a fossilized head that the locals call "Drakos" (the dragon).

The Holy Cave and the Healing Spring of St. Miron

 Going down the alley from the church courtyard to the west, you reach the cavern of Saint Miron, incorporated today into a beautiful chapel. Inside, one finds two large icons of the Virgin Mary and Saint Miron, the ceilings painted with apostles and saints, sophisticated chandeliers, and a stained glass window representing the saint, who cheerfully lights the interior of the chapel. Before the icons, the believers hang "offerings" - some silver plates that represent parts of the body, persons, or objects - either as a sign of gratitude and thanks or as a prayer for help and hope, accompanied by lighting a candle.


 

 In the granite wall opposite the entrance to the chapel, an archway opens, followed by three steps that descend into the cave. In a humid and cool space, where no more than three people fits in, there is a stone bed, a small altar with a candle that burns all the time near the icon of Saint Miron and, in one corner, a deep hole in which accumulates the water draining on the wall. A long-tail ladle and a large cup are helpful for those who want to drink or fill a bottle to take home.


 

 We also tasted the water, trying to distinguish its taste, to penetrate its mysteries, to connect with its vibration and information. Very cold and with a slightly salty taste, it seems to have an alkaline mineral composition, obviously, with therapeutic properties. The parishioners call it The Healing Spring of Saint Miron. We then gave ourselves a few minutes of prayer and reflection. In that austere space, but with a great spiritual charge, we lit a candle, worshiping the Saint and thanking Lord for daily miracle of our lives.

The Church with the Tomb and Relics of St. Miron

 Through the centuries of foreign occupation and persecution of the Orthodox Christians, the church of Agios Myron has suffered numerous destructions, like the whole settlement itself. Many of the historic imposing buildings erected during the flourishing Venetian period fell to the ground in a powerful earthquake in 1856. Shortly, during the Great Cretan Revolution (1866-1869), due to its strategic position and fortifications which housed the Christian rebels, the village was set on fire by the Ottoman troops of Reshid Pasa, and the Church, together with the tomb of Saint Miron that it housed, desecrated.


 

 In the modern period, the church was rebuilt and renovated, enjoying the icon of St. Miron, who survived, miraculously, all attempts. On May 12, 2014, following revelations of the locals and church servants, the tomb of Saint Miron was discovered, with great emotion, containing over 200 bone fragments,  16 centuries old, protected by a marble plaque. The exhumation took place at the decision of the Ecclesiastical Council, in the presence of the Bishop of Crete, this unique event being video recorded:


 
 Every year, on August 8, according to the Orthodox calendar, Saint Miron, the Bishop of Crete, the wonderworker is celebrated. The church with the relics of Saint and the hermitage with the healing spring in the village of Agios Myron become a place of pilgrimage and prayer, attracting Orthodox believers from Crete and Greece, but also foreign visitors, passionate about history, culture, and spirituality.

 Whether you are among them or not, if you are coming on holiday in Crete, do not miss this important landmark of the historical and spiritual heritage of the Greek nation and the Orthodox Church!