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Ancient Lappa: The Church of the Holy Five Virgins and the ancient cemetery
Archaeological Sites . Museums . Cultural Monuments Monasteries . Churches . Saints Rethymnon area

Ancient Lappa: The Church of the Holy Five Virgins – ancient cemetery

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.

Useful information

Driving directions:

  • Be advised from the Google map below for your way to this ancient site, as it is not signposted from the main road. Watch for the signpost to Kato Poros, turn right and follow this road. After ca. 400 m you will see at your left the entrance to the site.
  • After the entrance to the ancient cemetery one walks about 250m above rather rough hewn stone in wide steps to the church and the grave caves. Another short piece further you come to a river and to a source under a huge plane tree, which is supposed to be 2000 years old. Sturdy shoes are recommended.

Opening hours of the the church of the Holy Five Virgins and the cemetery of ancient Lappa:  during daylight

Entrance fee: none


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