Agia Varvara, of the Gortyna municipality, is the longest village in Crete.
The village is built along the road of Heraclion to western Mesara. The distance between the first and the last house is about 1, 5 kilometers.
Agia Varvara is 30 kilometers in the south-west of Heraclion, 580 meters above the sea level and a crossroads to the southern mountains of Psiloritis.
The climate is always cool and that is why people say “It is raining in Agia Varvara and God does not know it” .
The village is famous for its vegetables and, particularly, its cabbage. The visitors and passers-by can buy them from the various shops of the settlement. Apart from the shops and the vegetable crop, the residents are occupied by olive crop and vine-growing.
2.020 people live in Agia Varvara and it is the seat of the Agia Varvara local community which includes Kato Moulia, Keratokefali (that is desolated) and Perouniana. Pirouniana is one of the districts of Agia Varvara and took its name by the residents’ names of the settlement. Kampithiana also has small forests with oak trees.
In the village there is a women’s cooperative called “Ergani” that designs traditional Cretan uniforms.
The village might have been inhabited since the Minoan era. The old churches of the area (Agios Georgios, Agia Pelagia, the old church of Agia Varvara etc) show that the village has been certainly inhabited for the last 1000 years. There are some written records by Fr. BAROZZI, in 1577.
During the Turkish occupation mainly, there were many battles and hostilities because of its very important and strategic geographical position.
After the fall of Crete by Turks, Agia Varvara was given to Axmet Pasa Kioprouli. He dedicated it to the Vezir Mosque (Agios Titos) in Chandax.
In 1823, Xousein Mpeis camped in Agia Varvara with 12.000 soldiers in order to suppress the revolution in the area. And so its residents left the village.
In 1866 Turks destroyed the village.
A German military unit stayed in Agia Varvara for a year and a half, during the German occupation. The largest hospital unit in Balkans worked for the nursing of the German injured. In Rousa, an airport for small airplanes was also built in order to transfer the injured.
The central temple gave its name to the village.
Agia Varvara is said to be the “belly button of Crete”. According to a local story, two priests began, the one from Siteia and the other from Xania, to meet half way. After walking too many hours, they met in Agia Varvara. Exhausted and tired from walking, they sat to rest. Then one of the priests took off his cap, threw it on the ground and said “Here is the centre of Crete, here is the belly button of Crete, I put the boundary here“. And his cap became a big rock, a steady boundary at the entrance of the village that determines the centre of Crete. The small church of Profitis Ilias was built on that rock.
The patron saint is Agia Varvara, while important churches in the area are also the byzantine temples of Profitis Ilias, Agios Ioannis (St John) and Agios Georgios (St George).
The old monastery of Agia Pelagia is in the cemetery of the settlement.
The traditional festival of Agia Varavara, the patron saint of the village, is held on the 4th of December. The community centre of the village organizes such festivities in the carnival and in the beginning of July with Cretan music in the central square of the village.