Holy Monastery of Paliani

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The Monastery of Paliani is one of the oldest monasteries of Crete and is located south of the village of Venerato. The capitals that are found at the monastery’s forecourt reveal that it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple. It has been operating since the first centuries of the Byzantine Empire; it is consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and reached its heyday during the Venetian era. Under Ottoman rule it fell victim to the rage of the Turks, it was set on fire and only three of its 70 nuns survived. It was restored in the late 19th century and went through a new period of prosperity. One of the monastery’s most important elements is Agia Myrtia (Holy Myrtle); a centuries-old myrtle located south of its Katholikon and is celebrated on September 23. The legend suggests that an icon of the Virgin Mary was found on the myrtle’s trunk. This is most certainly another case of the ancient worship of trees that was practiced in Crete during the Minoan era. The temple of the monastery is a basilica with three transepts, one of the oldest in Crete. The site includes the ruins of older temples of the first and second Byzantine period and many pieces of marble, columns, capitals, granite designs and inscriptions are found. The temple’s transepts are separated by marble columns and capitals featuring Byzantine decorative elements.

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