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Hiking in Palekastro area with view to Kastri hill and to Kouremenos bay

The small plateau south of Palekastro and the pictursque chapel in the midst

Sunrise in Karoumes bay, exceptional beach between Palekastro and Kato Zakros

Windsurfing in Kouremenos Bay

The bay of Kato Zakros and the Deads Gorge in the background

Palm Beach Vai, 7km north of Palekastro village

Xerokambos Beach, 10km south from  Zakros

Toplou Monastery

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Toplou MonsteryMonastery Toplou, Palekastro, Eastern Crete

Moni Toplou (Greek: Μονή Τοπλού) is a 15th century monastery located in a dry and barren area in the Prefecture of Lasithi, on the eastern part of the island of Crete in Greece. It is about 6 km north of the village of Palekastro and 85 km east of Agios Nikolaos. The monastery was originally called Panagia Akrotiriani (Virgin Mary of the Cape), after the nearby Sidero cape.

Its current name literally means "with the cannonball", thus called by the Turks for the cannon and cannonballs (Turkish: top) it had in its possession for defensive purposes.

 History


Toplou monastery is one of the most significant monasteries in Crete, dedicated to Panagia (Virgin Mary) and St. John the Theologian. It was founded around the mid 15th century, probably on the ruins of an earlier convent. The monastery was plundered by the knights of Malta in 1530 and shattered in 1612 by a strong earthquake. Due to its strategic position, the senate of Venice, then ruler of Crete, decided to financially aid in rebuilding it. The monastery flourished until the surrender of eastern Crete to the Turks in 1646, after which it was abandoned for a long time. In 1704, it acquired special protection privileges from the Patriarch (i.e., stauropegic) and was re-inhabited. After its monks were slaughtered by Turks in 1821 during the Greek Revolution of Independence, Toplou was again deserted until 1828. In 1866, during the massive Cretan revolt against the Turks, it was once again devastated. During the German occupation of 1941-44, Toplou was providing shelter to resistance fighters and housed their wireless radio. When this was discovered by the Germans, the abbot and two monks were tortured and executed.


Architecture


Having to defend itself from pirates and invaders, Toplou monastery is heavily fortified, being laid out around a courtyard paved with sea pebbles and surrounded by strong, 10 meters high square walls. In its present form it extends to about 800 square meters in three floors, divided into cells, guest houses, kitchens and warehouses. The main church (katholikon) is built as a two-nave basilica and the belltower dates back to 1558.


Current status


Despite its turbulent history, Toplou has many works of art to its possession. Today, it hosts an interesting exhibition of Byzantine icons, books and documents, a display of ancient engravings and a collection of artefacts which reflect its role in the historical events that influenced Crete during the last centuries. Several of its walls are also adorned with remarkable fresco paintings.

Read 2552 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 19:52

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