Agios Minas (Saint Minas) is the patron saint of Heraklion and his temple was built in the mid-19th century, at a time when Ottoman reforms had led to a gradual improvement of the position of the Christian population of Crete. The temple was designed by the architect from Epirus Athanasios Mousis and construction began in 1862. However, the turbulent political atmosphere of the time and economic hardship delayed its completion. The temple was finally inaugurated in April 1895 and, apart from Saint Minas (central transept) is also consecrated to Saint Titus (south transept) and to the Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete (north transept).
The small chapel next to Agios Minas Cathedral was built in the 17th century, and was initially consecrated to the Virgin Mary Pantanassa (Queen of All). Following the conquest of Crete by the Ottomans (1669), the chapel was abandoned for many years until 1735, when it was renovated in order to serve as the city’s cathedral, pursuant to a firman issued by the Sultan. It was at that time when its two transepts were consecrated to the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (Candlemas) and Agios Minas (Saint Minas). Its interior decoration was particularly elaborate and featured votive offerings from believers from all over Crete.
In the historic centre of Heraklion, next to Saint Minas Cathedral, the only part of the Old Sinai Monastery of Saint Catherine that is preserved today is its katholikon. Until 1669, when Crete was conquered by the Turks, Saint Catherine had been one of the most important ecclesiastical and spiritual institutes of Orthodoxy. In the 15th century, a school from which famous scholars and hierarchs graduated was in operation within the monastery.
The new temple of Agios Matthaios (Saint Matthew) was built, probably as a family chapel, in the early 17th century, occupying the site of an older Byzantine temple which had been destroyed by an earthquake. Following the Ottoman conquest, it was given as a metochion (small monastic establishment) to the Saint Catherine’s Orthodox Monastery of Mount Sinai, to counterbalance the conversion of the temple of Saint Catherine into a mosque. In the following centuries, together with the temple of Saint Minas, those temples were the two main orthodox churches of the city and thus, the building’s forecourt was used as a burial place for many influential members of the Christian community.
Agios Titos (Saint Titus) was the city’s largest and most imposing temple during the Second Byzantine period and also the Metropolis (Cathedral) of the Diocese of Crete. During the Venetian era it was the seat of the Latin Archbishop, and during the Ottoman period it was converted into a mosque and its belfry into a minaret. Initially (in 1446, year of its inauguration), the temple was a basilica with three transepts and a wooden roof. It was destroyed by the 1856 earthquake and its reconstruction lasted from 1869 to 1925.
The temple was built in the early Venetian era next to the coastal city walls and served as the Katholikon of the Dominican Order. In its initial form the temple had a single transept and a wooden roof but four chapels were gradually added to it. The temple is of particular architectural importance featuring elements of 13th century French and Italian architecture. It was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman era. The temple sustained serious damage between the 14th and the 18th century caused by various earthquakes and it was recently restored to its current form.
The Monastery of Paliani is one of the oldest monasteries of Crete and is located south of the village of Venerato. The capitals that are found at the monastery’s forecourt reveal that it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple. It has been operating since the first centuries of the Byzantine Empire; it is consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and reached its heyday during the Venetian era. Under Ottoman rule it fell victim to the rage of the Turks, it was set on fire and only three of its 70 nuns survived. It was restored in the late 19th century and went through a new period of prosperity. One of the monastery’s most important elements is Agia Myrtia (Holy Myrtle); a centuries-old myrtle located south of its Katholikon and is celebrated on September 23. The legend suggests that an icon of the Virgin Mary was found on the myrtle’s trunk.
(Holy Temple of the Virgin Mary of the Crusaders (Crosecchieri))
The Holy Temple of the Virgin Mary of the Crusaders (Crosecchieri) forms part of the Latin Monastery of the Crusaders (Crosecchieri) whose other buildings have been destroyed. It is a basilica with three transepts of which the middle one is elevated. It was destroyed by the German bombings during the Battle of Crete in 1941 and was subsequently restored in 1956.