About Churches & Monasteries in Rethymnon

According to Michael Llewellyn Smith in his wonderful 1965 book ‘The Great Island’, Crete has in excess of 4,000 churches or chapels, scattered across its length and breadth. An incredible figure for an island which is only the fifth largest in the Mediterranean, but a thorough tour of the nomos of Rethymnon, may leave you wondering of there aren’t at least as many here, alone. St. Paul visited the island in the first century AD, and was not impressed, writing an epistle to Bishop Titus, that the ‘Cretans are all liars’ and ‘sloth bellies’. Under both Venetian and Ottoman occupation, the Orthodox Christians, tended to live away from the coastal plains, and in the more mountainous regions.

Cretan icon painting was much sought after, especially in Venice, so a fair number of this school ended up at quite an early age in that city, and of course, the most famous of them all, El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopulos), earned his nickname by travelling to Spain. Look out for the inscription NIΨONANOMHMATAMHMONANOΨIN. This means ‘clean not just your face, but your sins’ and is palindromic, i.e. it reads the same left to right as right to left. Whether one has religious beliefs or not, it’s well worth visiting one or more of those listed below; if for nothing else, the sense of the spiritual, which may well transcend the religious.

Photo (cover): www.destinationcrete.gr

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