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Food and TravelMemories of Greece: Arkardi Monastery of Crete

Memories of Greece: Arkardi Monastery of Crete

Hellenic News of America
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By Catherine Tsounis

The wandering Greek scholars believed they would have had a different reputation if they had come from a country that was free. Death in battle was preferable than slavery. The exiled Greek scholars believed that freedom was a supreme and greater good. Those who had freedom were blessed.”1

I visited Arkardi monastery on a Kapogiannis 5-day travel tour of Crete. It is southeast of Rethymnon. Arkardi is the symbol of freedom in Crete. The church is from the 16th century, with Renaissance elements. The monastery was a place for science, art, education and a rich library. It is fortified with walls.

Arkardi played an active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule during the Cretan revolt of 1866. 943 Greeks, mostly women and children, sought refuge in the monastery. After three days of battle and under orders from the abbot of the monastery, the Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. The monastery became a national sanctuary in honor of the Cretan resistance. November 8th is a day of commemoration in Arkadi and Rethymnon, Central Crete. The explosion did not end the Cretan insurrection, but it attracted the attention of the rest of the world. 2

From 1770 to 1898, The Cretans had numerous revolutions. A mother would give birth to see sons die in battle for freedom. After visiting Crete and the Peloponnese, I am totally convinced that there will always be a free Greece because of their DNA love of freedom. The Cretan Revolution of 1866 brought a blow against the Turkish Empire, causing economic and political damage, leading to 1898 Independence.

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What did they do at Arkardi that shocked the Western world? It was now dark and most women had gathered in the powder room. Kostas Giamboudakis then raised his pistol and ordered anyone who wanted to leave the storeroom, as he would explode the gunpowder. Hundreds of Turks were trying to break the door to slaughter the Christians. Giamboudakis waited to attract as many Turks as possible outside the door. Then he shot the powder kegs and a huge explosion was heard. Stones, bodies, heads, ruins, soils were all mixed and the souls of the Cretans passed into history forever.3

Photo by Catherine Tsounis

A dead bullet tree is a famous part of the monastery. Bullet holes are seen, as a physical witness of the battle. The monastery’s church has traditional icons with silver overlay.

St. George in an Eastern Roman military attire is seen in an icon, killing a dragon. The monastery’s museum has unique icons and manuscripts from its annexes and chapels. The gospel of Emmanouil Glyzonios is the earliest printed book manuscript preserve, dating back to 1588. Glyzonios was an educated tradesman born in Chios about 1530 or 1540. He spent his life engaged in trade. His principal interests were publishing books and collecting manuscripts. King Charles II of Spain commissioned him to collect manuscripts for him and his successor Philip II.

As all free Greeks, he had an interest in his enslaved countrymen. In 1568, he published the famous Glyzouni, a book in the language of the Greek people on practical arithmetic. The Glyzouni was used For more than two hundred years with twenty-one publications until 1818. He published books from 1586. The museum has his gospel The Glyzounios of 1588, a first edition. How and when it reached the monastery is a mystery.

Historical weapons and liturgical items are museum treasures. The sacred monastery Banner shows the Transfiguration of Christ. It is under this banner that the Cretan fighters swore to defend the monastery with their lives in 1866. During the siege, the banner hung over the monastery’s West gate. After Arkardi’s destruction, it was given as loot to an Ottoman officer. To his credit, the Ottoman military man returned it to the monastery in 1870.

Busts of the following heroic persons are in the courtyard: commander Ioannis Dimakopoulos; Kostas Giamboudakis, who exploded the gunpowder room; Abbot Gavriel and Harikleia Daskalaki, who lost three sons in the 1866 uprising.

Photo by Catherine Tsounis

Why should we remember the Arkardi sacrifice in 2023? The war cry on their banner was K (Crete), E(Enosis, Unification with Greece), E (Freedom) or D (Death). Almost one thousand people preferred being blown up to being sold as slaves on the auction block in Constantinople. Their sacrifice led to the freedom of Crete in 1898. Over four hundred years of occupation by a hostile power continues in the psychological attitude of the average Greek, regardless of the European Union’s politically correct attitude in the news and education media. Every family remembers their lost ancestors and homeland in Western Anatolia. “You have to know the past to understand the present”- Carl Sagan, Astronomer/Scientist.4

References:

1. Vacalopoulos, Apostolos E. “Origins of the Greek Nation: The Byzantine Period, 1204-1461, translation Ion Moles, revised by author. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N.J., 261,263

2. https://www.cretanbeaches.com/en/religious-monuments-on-crete/monasteries-in-crete/arkadi-monastery

3. https://www.monastiria.gr/sfanta-mnstire-arkadiu/?lang=en

4. https://kidadl.com/quotes/top-past-present-future-quotes-to-shape-your-whole-life

 

Links:

Arkadi Monastery (Crete) – Visit Tips + Photos

Photo3 – The%20bullet%20tree%20One%20of%20the%20most%20famous,standing%20witness%20of%20the%20battle%20that%20unfolded%20here.

https://www.monastiria.gr/sfanta-mnstire-arkadiu/?lang=en

https://delveintoeurope.com/arkadi-monastery-crete/

http://sofoscrete.blogspot.com/2011/12/blog-post_11.html- Harikleia Daskalaki

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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