The Monastery of Arkadhi (Moni Arkadiou) (open daily 8am-8pm;2 euros) is 25km/15.5miles southeast of the city in the Psiloritis foothills, with nice scenery along the way if you are driving on the old road. In 1866, during the long Greek War for Independence (with Crete liberated only in 1913), freedom fighters and their families (300 armed men and 600 women and children) under the leadership of the Abbot Gabriel, took refuge inside and blew up the gunpowder magazine and themselves with it after a two-day battle with the 15,000 besieging Turks, just at the point of defeat when the Turks began entering the fortress-like monastery. Needless to say, both Greek and Turk died in the explosion. This horrific event marshaled international support for the long and bloody struggle in Greece against Ottoman rule. The munitions storeroom remains vault less to this day, and the monument outside of the entrance presents skulls of some of the victims with various relics of -the event housed in a small museum. Every 7-9 November the anniversary of the blast is 'celebrated', (because, no matter how terrible the event, it stood as a symbol of the struggle for independence, synopsized in the slogan, 'Freedom or Death!') . Though the main gateway had to be rebuilt after the explosion, most of the monastery remains intact. Before the explosion, it was one of Crete's richest monasteries, much visited by travelers. During World War II it gave support to the resistance, as did others in Greece.
The double-nave church survived, a gem among Venetian monuments, with its 16th century west facade (dedicated to The Transfiguration of Christ and the Saints Constantine and Helen). The rest of the monastery is 17th century, though it was founded as early as the 11th century. There are pairs of Corinthian columns in the colonnade. On the north side of the courtyard you can see bullet holes in the old Old Refectory and the roofless gunpowder storeroom., but, counteracting all this sadness, the views from the east gate and from the walls above, (the latter looking South towards Mt. Psiloritis/Ida), are lovely.
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