When exactly were Anogeia founded and by whom, is not accurately known. Many believe that the original settlement was founded by villagers from the village Axos, which is located west of Anogia, at the location were the Minoan city Oaxos was situated.
According to a legend, a shepherd from Axos found one day on one of the slopes of Psiloreitis an icon depicting Saint John the Baptist. Pious as he was, he picked it up carefully, wrapped it in a towel, took it to his home and placed it there alongside the other icons. On the following day he was astonished to find out that the icon had disappeared. Terrified, he went back to the place he had found it on the day before, where he was exhilarated to discover that the icon was exactly at the same location. This inexplicable phenomenon was considered to be an order from the heavens, to build at that exact location a temple dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.
The church of Saint John seems to be the first building of the settlement, which later came to be known as “Anogia”. Within the temple of Saint John are remains of Byzantine drawings on the walls, which can be dated back to the 11th century.
The living conditions of the people of Anogia, as well as those of other mountain villages in Crete, were extremely difficult. Anogians of old times were mainly shepherds, goatherds and not so many of them were farmers. The barren soil, the harsh winters, the frequent revolts and the constant purges from the conquerors contributed to the primitive living conditions, to the great poverty and the lack of even the most basic of comforts. The French historian Victor Berard (1897) during his journeys in Crete, dedicated but a few lines for the village of Anogia, where with a raw and laconic way describes the hopeless living conditions of the time: “The village Anogia, resembles the outposts on the remote peaks of old, where men and animals live together in miserable hovels”. The Italian Vittorio Simonelli who visited Crete in 1893, was much more generous in his descriptions. First, he was put up at a “tolerable inn”. As for the villagers themselves, both men and women, made a great impression on him, when on a Sunday he saw them going to the church. He wrote: “Anogian women are beautiful, with red cheeks and faces that are lit up by eyes black and shiny, like agate. Their traditional clothing, accentuates the health and beauty that characterize the ancient Cretan archetype. They are also handsome, being tall, lean, and easy in their movement, proud, but without even a trace of ferociousness”.