Perched on a 500-meter high plateau with a backdrop of hillside vineyards, ancient olive groves and the distant peak of Mt Ida, it’s easy to see why the Arkadi Monastery draws so many visitors. The unique building, with its blend of Renaissance and Greek style architecture, fairytale turrets and dramatic central bell tower, has the presence of a fortress rather than a church, and behind its attractive façade lies a long and bloody history.
Built in 1587 on the site of a 13th-century Byzantine church, Arkadi Monastery is most famous for its role during the 1866 rebellion, when around 900 women, children and guerrilla fighters took refuge in the monastery and were held under siege by Turkish troops. Despite holding out for nine days, the monastery eventually fell to the Turks, but today, the monastery is treasured as a National Monument and an important reminder of the fight for Cretan independence.
Arkadi Monastery is located in central Crete, 25 km southeast of Rethimnon and is open daily from 9am-6pm.