Capital of Crete during the Roman and Early Byzantine period, Gortys became the first Christian community in Greece in the year 65 A.D., after St. Paul appointed Titus as bishop, with a mission to convert the whole of Crete.
In the 16th century the Cretan School of painting, closely allied with the Byzantine tradition, produced numerous painters of icons, both famous and unknown.
Crete is scattered with the ruins of countless frescoed churches dating from 961, when the Byzantine recaptured Crete from the Saracens, to 1204, when the island fell into the hands of the Venetians.
A presentation of the most important churches and monasteries follows.
In Chania City
The chapel of Agion Anargiron with old Byzantine frescoes. The Russo-Byzantine church of Agia Magdalini in the Halepa quarter.
In The District Of Chania
At Akrotiri northeast of the city (16.5 km.), the Monastery of Agia Triada, with a fine gate and church, built in 1632.
Near Agia Triada, the Monastery of Gouverneto, founded in 1548, has a Renaissance style church whose impressive facade is decorated with Venetian sculptures.
The Gonia Monastery (or Monastery of Hodigitria), near the village of Kolimpari (24 km. west of Chania), has a lovely view and dates since1662.
At Kato Episkopi, a village about 10 km. south of Kolimbari, the Rotonda of the Archangel Michael with interesting mosaic floors and important frescoes by Byzantine artists of the 12th century.
At the village of Alikianos (13 km. southwest of Chania), the Byzantine church of St. George with frescoes dated 1430.
At the village of Sougia on the south coast of the District, there are some exquisite mosaics from an early Christian 6th century basilica preserved in the village’s modern church.
In The District Of Rethimnon
The Monastery of Arkadi (Moni Arkadi,) (23 km. southeast of Rethimnon), built in the 16th century in a wonderful natural setting. It is linked with memorable events in the island’s struggle against Turkish oppression. There is a tourist pavilion outside the monastery.
The Monastery of Preveli (36 km. south of Rethimnon). A historic monastery well worth visiting with a small museum and beautiful view of the Libyan Sea (Liviko Pelagos).
In Heraklion City
The Cathedral of St. Minas and the smaller church of Agios Minas beside it.
The church of St. Catherine, containing icons by Michael Damaskinos, the most important representative of the Cretan School.
In The District Of Heraklion
At Skotini about 1 km. northwest of Fodele the little church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary (Issodia tis Theotokou) built on the site of an older church of the 11th or 12th century.
About 56 km. southwest of Heraklion the Monastery of Vrondissi with a fountain carved in the relief (15th century) at the entrance to the garden and a panoramic view.
Further southwest, near the village of Vorizia ( 52 km. from Heraklion), the abandoned Monastery of Varsamoneri. Here one can see the church of Agios Phanourios whose 15th century frescoes are of great artistic and scientific value, a unique monument of the Cretan School.
At Gortys the three-apsed basilica (6th century) dedicated to Near Krassi, west of Agios Nikolaos, the Monastery of Kardiotissa, with its church consecrated to the Virgin of Kera.
In The District Of Lassithi
Some 9 km. from Agios Nikolaos before the village of Kritsa, the church of Our Lady of Kera, filled with frescoes from the 14th or 15th century and judge to be the finest in Crete.
East of Sitia (18 km. ), the Monastery of Toplou or the Panayia (Virgin)
The Akrotiriani Monastery, dating from the 1th century. The monastery contains an inscription from the 2nd century B.C. and a famous 18th century icon by Ioannis Kornaros. South of Sitia (41 km.), the Monastery of Kapsa.