Religious tourism in Crete

Pilgrimage to the Middle East

More than two thousand years ago, the Holy Land was not divided by the borders of modern states, and the homeland of Christianity stretched far to the East. Covering the territories of modern Lebanon and Syria. To visit these countries today for an Orthodox pilgrim means to touch that part of the Christian world that is hidden from the general sight, to travel back to those distant times and feel their atmosphere.

The Middle East has preserved not only evidence of biblical events, but also many unique monuments that revive the picture of the beginning of Christianity. Ancient cities, the first Christian churches and monasteries give a clear picture of the life and culture of the first Christians.

One of the most important aspects of organizing a trip to the Middle East is choosing who will accompany the pilgrims, who will be their guide. The itinerary of the pilgrimage tour can be limited to visiting one country, for example Syria, or it can be combined with Jordan or Lebanon. It used to be difficult to combine a pilgrimage to Syria with a visit to the Holy Places of Israel: if you had an Israeli visa in your passport, entering Syria was quite problematic. But now, with the abolition of entry visas to Israel, such a problem should not be, and we can safely offer combined routes to the Holy Places of Israel and Syria.

In previous articles, we have already dwelt in detail on the description of the Holy Places of Israel and Jordan, and we decided to devote this material to no less interesting and important countries for Orthodox pilgrims - Syria and Lebanon.

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Holy places in Syria

Syria is a country that everyone has heard of, but few know. A country with a stunning history, rich traditions and amazing culture. Many religions and peoples have left their traces on this land: Romans, Greeks, French, Egyptians, Mongols, Jews and Russians. Syria amazes the traveler's imagination: even if a person has never thought about miracles before, here he begins to believe in them. In addition, the local residents are pleasantly surprised in the country. These are people who are in no hurry and, apparently, therefore, they are not late anywhere. Another culture, another world is immediately felt. The world, which in order to learn, you need to learn to understand.


As a rule, all pilgrimage trips around the country begin with a visit to the Syrian capital Damascus. This is an ancient city, known from the 16th century BC, repeatedly mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. As among the ancient inhabitants of the Middle East, and now it is considered one of the most beautiful and fertile places on earth.

The capital of today's Syria is inextricably linked with the gospel story. It was here that the miraculous conversion of Saul, the future Apostle Paul, to the Savior took place. On one of the streets of the city, the healing of the Apostle Paul took place: this historical place is marked by an ancient church monument that has survived to our time - the temple of the Holy Apostle Ananias, which is located underground, in the old part of Damascus. In addition, the head of John the Baptist is kept in Damascus - a shrine worshiped not only by Orthodox Christians, but also by Muslims.


Greece is the main destination of Europe for Orthodox pilgrims. Each of its regions keeps shrines that are significant for the entire Christian world. The largest island in Greece is no exception, religious tourism in Crete is well developed, because here you will find many ancient monasteries and churches. They will be of interest not only to believers, but also to everyone who is interested in the history of Greece and Christianity. Which religious sites in Crete are worth visiting?

must-see Christian shrines in Crete

Kapsa Monastery

Kapsa Monastery, Crete. Photo www. ritipoliskaihoria. r/

At 37 km from Sitia is the Kapsa monastery, erected in the 13th century on a steep cliff overlooking the Libyan Sea. The full name is the Monastery of St. John Kaps, and it is dedicated to the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. In 1471, the monastery was destroyed by pirates, and the area was deserted. Soon, residents appeared here again, among them was the Venetian Giovanni Capsas, hence the name of the monastery.

Since 1841, the monastery was rebuilt by the monk Joseph Gerontoyanis. After the death of his daughter, this man gave up worldly life and devoted himself to an ascetic life and prayer. The Cretans declared him a saint for the many miracles the monk performed during his lifetime. Gerontoyannis healed the faithful and devoted many years to the restoration of the monastery.

Today the monastery complex stands out against the background of barren rocks. The main shrine of Kaps was the cave in which Gerontoyanis lived for a long time. They say that two small dents in it were formed due to the fact that the monk prayed for a long time on his knees. The tomb of Gerontoyanis is located in the two-nave temple of Kapsa - pilgrims still come to it. Among the other shrines of the monastery are unique icons of the 15th century, created in the style of the Cretan school of icon painting.

Toplou Monastery

The impressive fortified monastery of St. John the Theologian Toplou is located 10 km east of Sitia. Its architecture resembles a fortress - it so happened that over its long history Toplu repeatedly repelled the attacks of invaders, was destroyed and rebuilt again.

The monastery got its name in 1530, when it was equipped with a cannon, from the Turkish word "top" - a cannon. In addition, it is also called the abode of the Virgin on the Cape, since it is located at the base of Cape Sidero ..

Originally, in the 14th century, a chapel was erected in the local cave of Agionero, and around it was a small monastery, which was destroyed by pirates in 1498. The monastery got its modern look in 1612, when, after a strong earthquake, it was rebuilt by the Venetians as part of the strengthening of Christianity in the Mediterranean. At the same time, these impressive 10-meter-wide defensive walls were erected.

From here, from these walls, the monks poured boiling oil and water over the heads of their enemies. And during the Greek revolution, the rebels took refuge in Toplou, for which in June 1821 the Ottomans massacred all 12 monks.

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