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Travel Guide Heraklion Crete Island Greece
St Mark's Basilica was built in 1239 and is in the centre of Heraklion opposite the fountain in the Lion's Square. It was the private church of the Venetian Governor of Crete. An earthquake destroyed the original church. The Basilica was converted into a mosque and used by the Turks until 1915.
St Mark's Basilica was the most important Byzantium church in Heraklion where all major ceremonies took place. It has been restored and is now used for lectures, concerts and for the permanent exhibition of copies of Byzantium wall paintings of Crete.
Agios Minas is the patron saint of Heraklion and he has been accredited with many legends and miracles in the town. There are two churches dedicated to Agios Minas. The larger is the cathedral, consecrated in 1895, and it is the largest church in Crete. The smaller church was built in 1735, with uniquely carved wooden iconostasis and old Byzantium icons.
Agia Katerini was the church of the Sinai Monastery that was located here. It is beside the Agios Minas Cathedral in Heraklion. It was founded during the 2nd Byzantium period and was the spiritual and artistic centre between 15th -17th centuries. During the Turkish occupation it was transformed into a mosque with the name Pasha Zoulfiakap Ali.
Today the church houses the Ecclesiastical Arts Museum with its collection of Byzantium icons, writings, wall paintings of the 13th and 14th centuries, wood carvings and works by Cretan artists. Among its collections are six icons by Mihail Damaskinou, who was, it is believed, El Greco's first teacher.
The Monastery of the Kalyviani Madonna is located 6 km west of Heraklion. It was founded in the 14th century and was abandoned after the Ottoman invasion. The old church has wall murals dating back to the 14th century.
The monastery today is run by nuns and houses an orphanage, an old people's home and workshops with traditional handicrafts.
The Paliani Monastery was founded in the 7th century and is considered to be one of the oldest in Crete. In the centre of the courtyard is a triple arched church of the 13th century with old wall paintings and icons. Beside the church is a tree, the Myrtle of Paliani. Legend has it that an icon of the Madonna was found among the roots of the tree. The tree is considered sacred and around which the monastery's history is entwined.
The Vrontisiou Monastery is located between the villages of Zaros and Vorizia and is dedicated to Agios Antoniou. Although its foundation cannot be dated its name is recorded in documents of 1323 when there were four monks with the name of Brontisis.
The monastery was a religious, spiritual and national centre of Crete. It was also a centre for the Cretan revolutionaries in their fight against the Turks in 1866 at which time it was seriously damaged.
The Monastery of Agios Georgios is located 30 km from Heraklion. It is the largest monastery of registered and unregistered monks in Crete. The monastery was built in the later years of the Venetian occupation.