TOPLU MONASTERY – Sitia, Crete
The Holy Stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Theologian (Toplu) is located in the northeastern Crete and it is one of the most important monasteriesof the island.
It was built in the 14th century in an isolated area and it resemblesa castle. In its early years it had the name Theotokos Akrotiriani (: of the cape) because it is situated at Cape Sidero (: Iron). It was renamed Toplu during the Ottoman period and since the 17th century it has the present form. The monastery stands imposing with the 33-meter bell tower.
Toplu monastery participated in national struggles and during its history it has suffered from frequent attacks. It was looted and destroyed by pirates in 1498 and in 1530 by the Knights of Malta.
In 1821, the year of the Greek War of Independence started, Turks slaughtered the monks, the monastery was deserted and relics of inestimable value were looted. In 1840 amodern peer-teaching school was established there to educate the children of this remote area of Crete.
In 1869, the year of the Cretan Revolution, Toplu was destroyed again by the Turks in retaliation for the participation of monk Melchizedek in the revolutionary committee of Sitia, while in 1941, during the German occupation of Greece, a radio operated in the monastery for communication with the Allies in Cairo. The abbot and the monks were then arrested and executed.
In Toplu, there are icons of the 15th century that, to get here with other newer ones, are of a great interest, because they show the stages of development of the Painting School ofConstantinople, which influenced the Cretan art.
The value of Toplu’s icons is indicative of the impressive level of education of themonks. Some of the icons are works of Ioannis Cornaro, of which are the icon “Great art Thou, o Lord, and marvelous are Thy works” of 1770, the icon “Unwithering Rose” of 1771 and an icon of St. Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions.
Nowadays, Toplu is prominent as one of the monasteries of great interest in Crete. The monks produce and sell excellent organic products such as wine, olive oil and raki, which bear the name “Toplu.”
Toplu monastery is one of the most historic and interesting monasteries in Crete, with a history of resistanceand it celebrates on September 26,the feast of the Assumption of St. John the Theologian and Evangelist.
From Sitia to Toplou: The distance is about 10 kilometers and you will reach there in 15 minutes.
From Hagios Nikolaos, Heraklion, Rethymnon and Chania in Toplou: Follow the highway to Sitia. The road until the intersection to Hierapetra is good. Count approximately one hour from HagiosNikolaos and 2 hours from Heraklion to Toplu.
Near the monastery is Itanos beach and the famous Vai palm forest.
The Toplu is open to thepublic daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
Tel. (+30) 2843061226