Monastery of Odigitria

Monastery of Odigitria

The beautiful male monastery of Odigitria is in the western end of the Asterousia Mountains, 250 meters above the sea level, near Agiofarago and Martsalo.

The area was an important place for the hermitage in Crete and that is why it is called Agio Oros of Crete.

The access to the monastery is possible through the Siva village and Odigitria monastery falls under the Pigaidakia district.

The Monastery was found in the 14th century and it belonged to the Kallergis family. It is one of the oldest monasteries as it is mentioned in the Ducal Records of Chandax (Heraclion) in 1393.

It is built in fortress architecture and a part of the walls is preserved until today. The temple (with 2 aisles) dedicated to Koimisi of Theotokos and Petros and Pavlos Apostles is in the center of the buildings. There was a church of Agios Fanourios in the past, but it was demolished.

A baker room, an oil press, a winepress, some stores and cellars for the cheese, a well, a guest house, the abbot’s quarters with a library, some cells and graves of the saints of the monastery are in the monastery.

The Ksopatera tower is also in the monastery (see Ksopatera history).

Historically, the resistance history of the monastery begins from the 17th century.


Ksopatera or Ioannis Markakis was a monk in the monastery and is famous for his heroic actions. He was born in 1788 and, when he grew up, he wanted to get married to a woman that his father didn’t approve. Ioannis went to the Odigitria Monastery as a reaction to his father’s insistence, became a monk and took the name Ioasaf. Right away Ioasaf met the Cretan rebels that fought against the Turks. Ioasaf’s heroic actions began from 1810, when Turks called him “Chainis” ( from the Arabic word “Xain” that means insidious, ungrateful, traitor, rebel) ( then Xainides were known to the Cretan people as “kalisperides” -i.e. someone who says good evening- due to their night activities). He was also called “Ntelis” priest which means a crazy priest.

His fame as a Christian protector spread and made Turks of the area and of Chandax (Heraclion) to report him to Metropolite in order to bring him to sense. After and threats, the Metropolite unfrocked him, i.e. unmade him priest, he made him “ksepapas” or “ksopapas”, and so the “Ksopateras” name remained till today. (Another version of the story was that the Metropolite unfrocked Ioasaf because he killed a janissary, a Turk who spoke offensively to his sister). After the execution of “Argolidis”, a bloodthirsty and tyrannical janissary, by Ksopapas, Turks decided to go against the Odigitria monastery in February of 1828 with 3.000 soldiers (or 800, in another version of the story). Ksopateras called all the chieftains of Mesara for help, after he was informed of the Turkish attack. But, because of the heavy rain and the overflowing of Geropotamos River, they couldn’t reach the area and help him. Only five monks and five seculars (among them Ksopatera’s sister) were in the monastery.

In the tower, which is preserved in the precinct till today, Ksopateras and his comrades fought three days and nights. The third day all the comrades of Ksopateras were killed (apart from his sister that Ksopateras had sent away the previous day) and he continued fighting with an injured arm.

His end was heroic as Turks set fire to the tower and he was made to come out to fight with his gun on the one hand and his sword in the other. After his execution, Turks cut his head, put it on a large stick and took it in all over the area to show their triumph.

See Martsalo.