The Monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul / Video

The sacred place where the testimonies of past ages were gathered

 Along with Agios Minas Cathedral and Agios Titos Cathedral, one of the oldest and most interesting historical religious sites in Heraklion is the Monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul. The church dates from the 13th century, the early period of Venetian rule. Despite the countless damage and changes suffered over time, it has survived to the present day, being recently rebuilt and integrated into the cultural and religious heritage of the city.

 Located in the vicinity of the fortified wall of Candia (the Venetian name of the city of Heraklion), between the Old Port and the Dermatas Gate, the temple originally served as the Katholikon (main church) of the Dominican Monastic Order. It was one of the largest and most important Catholic monasteries in Heraklion. The first church was a stone building with a single aisle, with a two-sided sloped wooden roof, a single transept, and a rectangular, tiered altar, covered by two vaults. Later, that was the model of inspiration for the construction of the Agios Nikolaos church in Chania.

 By the 15th century, the Venetians had gradually added four chapels to the south side of the church. In one it can be seen some remains of six-centuries-old fresco, unique in Heraklion. In the chapels, but also around the church walls were housed the graves of some political and religious leaders of the city.

 The structure, large (54 meters long, 15 wide, and 12 high), but lacking buttresses to ensure its strength, suffered major damage during earthquakes that occurred between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. During the Turkish occupation, the monastery, partially destroyed, was transformed into a mosque, with a minaret in the southwest corner. Recent restoration work has revealed remnants of the Ottoman period, including the mihrab (altar) of mosques, gravel floors, and a ceramic kiln.

 Moreover, the excavations have brought to light tombs dating from the second Byzantine period (11th century) and under them, a rich dwelling from the Arab period (9th century - first half of the 10th century) was discovered. In the courtyard of the monastery can be admired the remains of these buildings, which provided historians with valuable information about the architecture and lifestyle of that era. The objects discovered are on display at the Museum of History in Heraklion.

 With the support of the Archaeological Service and the Archdiocese of Crete, the Monastery was rebuilt in its original form. Today, together with the adjacent archaeological site, it belongs to the patrimony of the Ministry of Culture. It is open to the public on June 29 of each year, the day dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, on the occasion of which religious services are held with invited hierarchs, and exhibitions of icons and religious art are hosted for several days.

Enjoy the pictures of this historic site and architectural highlight in the article ”The Monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul in pictures”

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