Kellieon Saturday, 11 September 2010
The Arkadi Monastery is located in the Rethymno Prefecture, 25 kilometers southeast of Rethymno, Crete.... high in the mountains, we travelled along windy roads lined with old olive groves.
The historical importance of Arkadi lies in the role it played in the Cretan War of Independence. When the revolution was declared, in 1866, all the leaders met at Arkadi, which was chosen because of its strategic position. Ishmael Pasha sent a message to the monks with the bishop of Rethymnon that the revolutionary committee should leave or else the monastery would be destroyed.
The head monk refused to obey. Later the Turks besieged the monastery where many children and women had also gathered. Soon the besieged realized there was little hope but they fought bravely. Rather than surrender to the Turks, they blew themselves up with gunpowder to avoid captivity. Just a few survived, 114 men and women were taken captives and 864 were killed.
The powder magazine, formerly a wine cellar.
The holocaust of Arkadi was a moral victory for the Cretans. It drew attention to Crete in the West and the way for the freedom of the island was paved.
A decrepit witness of the great battle, wounded and scorched by fire, this old, cross shaped cypress stands pointing to the church. Bullets can still be seen in its dead bark.
The former windmill of the monastery (pictured below) is used today as an ossuary that preserves the bones of the fighters of the 1866 battle