The church of the Holy Five Virgins built inside a chamber of a Roman tomb
The Church of the Holy Five Virgins is carved into a Roman tomb in ancient Lappa near the village Argyroupoli (1km west). It is one of the most important shrines of western Crete, with a long tradition of worship. The church is dedicated to the Holy Five Virgins Thekla, Marianna, Ethane or Athena, Martha and Mary, who are believed to have died there.
According to local tradition, long ago five virgins from Argyroupoli or a neighboring town took refuge in hewn tombs in an ancient cemetery. They lived there (ca. 330 AD.), died and were buried in old graves. During their lifetime they had gained great reputations and many pilgrims arrive at the caves asking their blessing.
The archaeologist Dr. Doefner speaks of a “pagan family tomb” of the Greco-Roman period, which functioned as the pilgrimage for five Christians Martyrs.
The Roman tombs
The cemetery of ancient Lappa extends along Petres River, in the east and northwest of the ancient town. It consists of chambered Roman tombs carved in marly limestone rock. Tombs have been constructed at the hill’s foot as far as the river banks. The layout of the ca. 70 tombs found along the stone-paved paths of this area were family tombs, which were used for multiple burials and most of them were found sealed. Throughout the centuries, the monuments were used again as lodging places or as small temples. (source: prefecture of Rethymnon)
Down at the river and the source, you will meet this huge plane tree, which a few decades ago was split into two parts, so that the path could pass through.
- Continue reading about the upper town of Argyroupolis in Village Argyroupoli (ancient Lappa) and its springs