Agios Minas Orthodox Cathedral in Pictures

Agios Minas, Protector of the City of Heraklion and Patron Saint of the Metropolitan Church

 One of the most impressive Orthodox cathedrals in Greece, Agios Minas Church is located in the center of Heraklion and serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Crete. Erected in the second half of the 19th century, this beautiful architectural monument is among the top ten cultural tourist attractions on the island. Also, it has an important significance for the locals, as it is dedicated to the Holy Martyr Mina, the wonderworker,  spiritual patron, and protector of the city of Heraklion. 

 The 30-meter-high building, with a floor area of ​​1,350 m2, has a cruciform structure with an impressive central dome, three aisles with columns, side galleries, and two corner bell towers. Its eclectic architectural and decorative style harmoniously combines the Byzantine elements with the Renaissance ones. During the mass, when it is fully lit, in addition to its perfect acoustics, you can admire in detail the wonderful frescoes, the spectacular chandeliers, the refined decorations, and not less, the impressive iconostasis and the bishop's throne, both made of white and green marble from the Cycladic island of Tinos. The right aisle is dedicated to Apostle Titos, the patron saint of Crete, and the left one to Saints Ten Martyrs of Crete. 

 Designed by the architect Athanasios Mousis, who also contributed to the reconstruction of the Church of Agios Titos, the work on the cathedral began in 1862 but was interrupted during the Great Cretan Revolution (1866-1869), and then resumed in 1883. Despite the turbulent political atmosphere and economic difficulties, the effort to build the cathedral was enthusiastically supported by donations from many monasteries and the inhabitants of Heraklion. It was inaugurated with great pomp in 1895, under Metropolitan Bishop Timotheos Kastrinoyiannis, during three days of ceremonies and celebrations.

 Together with the surrounding square, the city's cathedral can accommodate up to 8,000 people. Impressive religious services take place here on major national and religious holidays over the year, especially on November 11th, the feast day of the capital city of Heraklion. To the left of the cathedral, visitors can see the original church of St. Mina (called by the locals "mikros Agios Minas"), dating from 1735 which has served as a metropolitan church until the completion of the cathedral.

 During the Turkish period, the Holy Great Martyr Mina, iconographically represented as a Roman soldier on horseback, was named protector of Heraklion and was revered even by Muslims. Saint Mina (also Menas, Minas) was an Egyptian Christian soldier in the Roman army who lived in the 3rd-4th century AD, in the time of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. 

 In 303 AD at the outbreak of the great persecution of Christians, he resigned from the army and took refuge in the mountains, living as a hermit. At the age of 50, ready to endure martyrdom, he left his shelter in the mountains and descended into the city, where he revealed his faith to the Roman authorities. He was arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to unimaginable torture, and because he refused to recant his Christian faith, he was eventually beheaded and his body was then burned. A small fragment of his remains is now on display in the cathedral, in a reliquary next to his icon.

In his autobiographical novel "Report to El Greco", Nikos Kazantzakis wrote about the relationship between the inhabitants of the city of Heraklion and their patron saint: "... And whenever the Turks sharpened their knives and prepared to fall on Christians, Saint Minas emerged from his icon to protect the citizens of Megalo Kastro...”

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