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Monastery Katholiko - the mystical place for Ascetics
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Monastery Katholiko – the mystical place for Ascetics

Road Trip Akrotiri with hike to the monastery KatholikoIn West Crete on the Akrotiri peninsula: a short distance further to the north from the monastery Gouverneto, within the wild and magnificent Avlaki gorge, lies well hidden the Monastery of Agios Ioannis the Hermit.

It is considered to be the oldest monastery of Crete, dating back to the 6th or 7th century. It is better known as monastery Katholiko.


Note: The access to this monastery is exclusively by foot. You must overcome a height difference of 400 m on a stone path walkway. At its end you will go down in a zick-zack Serpentine. Total walking time one way: approx. 35-40 min.

Agios Ioannis the Hermit in the Monastery Katholiko

Monastery Katholiko – the mystical place for Ascetics
The cave of the ascetic Agios Ioannis the Hermit

The Catholicon of the monastery with Renaissance characteristics is carved into the rock next to the cave, where according to the legend, an ascetic named Ioannis the Hermit lived at the beginning of the 16th century.

The sad end of the ascetic: he lived exclusively on herbs and the fruit of the carob trees, causing his physical condition to weaken so terribly that he moved on all fours. During night, a shepherd took him as a wild goat and fatally wounded him with an arrow. His grave site is being honored today at the entrance to a cave just before the monastery Katholiko. Shortly after his death, this place became a pilgrimage site for the inhabitants of Kydonia (Chania)

Monastery Katholiko – the mystical place for Ascetics
There is a bridge spanning the gorge, which connects the church with the slope on the other side and leads to the cloisters.

Agios Ioannis the Hermit vs Agios Ioannis the Xenos (stranger) and Hermit

There are two ascetics that are often confused in general. However, they lived in a different time period.

Upon researching about this monastery I discovered very different information. The most reliable version is certainly the Chairman’s statement of the archaeological authority of Chania, Michalis Andreanakis, which I want to mention here in a few words:

a) an ascetic named Ioannis the Hermit lived here at the beginning of the 16th century. He is not to be confused with the Ioannis Xenos and Hermit of the 11th century, who lived in the cave Marathokefala next to Kolymbari.

b) The monasteries Gouverneto and Katholiko were built about the same time.

Monastery Katholiko – the mystical place for Ascetics
On the slope across the gorge there are monastic cells carved in the mountain

The surroundings

On the slope across the gorge there are monastic cells carved in the mountain, where it is believed anchorites lived in early Christian years.

The monastery Katholiko was deserted when most monks passed away. Or: they left due to the many pirate invasions from the seaside. According to the most convincing view, they left and built the monastery of the Lady of the Angels (Kyria ton Angelon), today’s monastery Gouverneto.

  • After visiting the monastery Katholiko you can hike along the gorge Avlaki to the sea (there & back approx 45 mins) and visit the old harbor of the monastery with some ruins.

Monastery Katholiko – Useful information

Please note: for the hike to the monastery Katholiko (or to the Bear Cave), you first have to pass on foot the grounds of the monastery Gouverneto. A parking lot is in front of the monastery.

You can walk to the monastery also on a sunny winter day. But please remember: the weather must be dry for some days, otherwise the stones on the way down to the Bear Cave and especially to the monastery Katholiko might be slippery. Should you encounter a difficulty, don’t hesitate to turn round.

For the walk: there is no shade on the way, and no water. Closed shoes (sneakers) are suggested. In winter on wet days, it is not suggested to do the hike, as the stones paths can be slippery. A torch is needed for the cave of Agios Ioannis the Hermit (and if you want also to explore the Bear Cave). Please walk with company. Walk only during full daylight. Cell phones don’t receive signal in this area.

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