Toplou monastery

Toplou monastery

The Toplou Monastery, one of the largest and most important monasteries in Crete, is in the Kavo Sidero Cape, 10 kilometers in the east of Sitia and 6 kilometers from Palaikastro.

It is built in a fortress style, its area is about 800 square meters and it has 3 levels around its inner precinct. According to tradition, there are 100 doors in Toplou, but only 99 have been counted. There many ancillary places like kitchens, ovens, cells, guest rooms, the abbot’s quarter and store rooms.

The front of the monastery is of the Mediaeval style, on which there is a pot from which very hot olive oil and lead were thrown on the pirates and the invaders that were trying to break the door.

The bell tower is in the west of the central door and its height is 33 meters. There is a well in the inner yard that was used by the monks for the monastery.

The Basilica (with two aisles) is opposite the well and dedicated to Gennisi of Theotokos (i.e. birth of Virgin Mary) and Agios Ioannis Theologos.

The year of its foundation is not known but the frescos found in the Panagia church were from the 14th century. The monastery flourished in the 15th century and acquired a large real estate from the donations of the people from Siteia until the middle of the 16th century. The monastery is stated as “Panagia Akrotiriani” in the records of those centuries.

The monastery collapsed in 1612 by an earthquake and built again with the help of the Venetians as they thought it was very important militarily.

It was referred for the first time as “Toplou” in 1673. This name came from Turkish and the word “top” means a canon. The monastery had a canon in order to resist against the pirates and inform the area about imminent threats. It is also said that its name came from the contraction of the word “plousio” (i.e. rich) as a very large real estate belonged to the monastery.

During the Turkish Occupation the monastery was constantly under looting. The Turks thought that Cretan rebels had found shelter in the Toplou Monastery. 12 monks were slaughtered in 1821 in the door of Lotza.

A mutual teaching school worked in the monastery from 1870.

It played an important role during the German occupation as it had a radio and contacted with the allies in Cairo. The Germans found it out and executed the Abbot, a monk and the Cretans in the monastery.

The Museum of Copperplate and Greek Folk Engravings is in the monastery. Old and impressive icons, Patriarchal Sigils like Gospels, silver-gilt crosses, Sultans Firmans, seals, revolutionary banners, vestments etc are exhibited.

The monastery is famous for its organic products that exports under its name. Olive oil, raki and many wine varieties are produced and bottled in the monastery.