Kera Kardiotissa Monastery - Dikteon Cave - Kritsa Village
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- The default stops may change according to your wishes, consult your driver.
- Entrance fees for archaeological sites/museums, escorts/guides and meals are not included.
KERA KARDIOTISSA MONASTERY
The Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa is located 50km southeast of Heraklion, in a wooded area of North Dikti Range, next to the road leading to the Plateau of Lassithi. This is a historic monastery, after which the nearby settlements of Kera and Ano Kera Kera have been named.
The exact date of its foundation is unknown. It is believed that the establishment of the monastery is connected with the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary, after which it takes its name (Kera means Our Lady), which is today located in the Church of San Alfonso in Rome. The icon was drawn by San Lazaro (9th century) and depicts Panagia (Virgin Mary) holding Jesus. According to the tradition, during the iconoclastic Era, this icon was moved to Constantinople, but returned back miraculously. Moreover, during the Venetian Era, the icon was stolen from a wine merchant and moved to Rome, where it is stored till today. In 1735, the icon was replaced by another one, which is also considered miraculous.
The beautiful stone-built church of the monastery is dedicated to the Nativity of Mary (celebrates on September 8). The present church is built in four phases. Originally there was a single aisled temple that was later expanded with two rooms and a smaller chapel. Typical are the old frescoes of the 14th century, quite damaged by time.
Because of its fortified position, during the Cretan revolutions, the monastery of Kera served as the revolutionary center of the local province and thus suffered many times of Turkish attacks. Today Kera serves as a nunnery and it is worth a visit, especially if you combine it with a drive to Lassithi Plateau.
THE DIKTEON CAVE
The Dikteon Cave (or Dikteon Andron or Dictaean Cave) is one of the most important and famous of the 3,000 caves in Crete and the 8,500 in Greece.
It is in the impressive Dikteon Cave, rich in stalagmites and stalactites, that Zeus was born according to legend. This is why the Dikteon Cave was already famous in antiquity, dedicated to the worship of the greatest of the gods, as the many offerings found there indicate.
The Dikteon Cave lies at an altitude of 1025 m. on the northern slopes of Mount Dicte, which dominates the Lassithi Plateau and the whole of East Crete. The cave is near the village of Psychro, which is why it is also known as Psychro Cave.
From Psychro, follow the paved path with oak trees on either side. For the more adventurous, at the beginning of the path you will find donkeys to take you up to the Dikteon Cave. At the end of the short path, just before the cave entrance, it is worth stopping to catch your breath, enjoy the panoramic view of the whole plateau and draw into your lungs the refreshing mountain air, scented with thyme, sage and other local aromatic herbs. It’s a wonderful feeling, making you think it was no accident that the Dikteon Cave was chosen as the site of such an important event as the birth of Zeus, Father of the Gods of Olympus.
If you wish to get to know the essence of the people from Kritsa, you must first gain an insight into the “soul” of their locality.
Only by understanding their interconnectedness with the natural environment, and the nuances of their actions and behaviour, will you have an appreciation of the character and soul of the Kritsan people. Kritsa is a unique community of people with their own cultural progression, their own tradition, and their own local dialect.
Their locality rises gradually from a place where the sun shines on the sea, to the highest peaks of the Dikti Mountains towards the west, creating two flat geological plains in between, one called the plain of Kritsa where the village is situated at the lowest point, beside abundant water springs and extensive olive groves, and another at the Plateau of Katharo.
The subtlety of the natural climatic changes of the area, and its high altitude shape the soul of its people, a soul that is rough-hewn, yet hospitable.