The Preveli monastery consists of two main building complexes,
the Lower (Kato) Monastery of Saint John the Baptist and the Rear (Piso) Monastery of Saint John the Theologian which is in operation today.
Both monasteries can be visited, the Lower one was renovated and opened its doors again to the public in 2013.
There are strong indications that the first core of the Preveli Monastery was organized on the area of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist (the lower monastery), during the II Byzantine period of Crete, around the 10th or the beginning of the 11th century, when many monasteries were established on the south coast of Crete. The oldest date related to the monastery is 1594, and it is engraved on a bell of the monastery. The monastery was probably founded during the Venetian occupation by a feudal lord known as Prevelis. When in 1649 the Turks occupied Crete, they destroyed numerous church establishments, among them the Preveli Monastery .
The bridges of Preveli
On our journey to the Preveli monastery we meet the arcade – like bridge over the river Megas Potamos, built by locals at the expenses of the Monastery between 1850 and 1852. The bridge is shaped Π and comprises of two inclined stone laid levels of 13,30 meters width and 7,60 meters height. The construction is highly regarded both from the architectural and the aesthetic points of view.
The nearby bridge over the Bourtzoukos stream (see google map) is simpler in construction and smaller in dimensions and was built in 1852. These two bridges allowed access to the Monastery’s farms and to the other inhabitants of the area.
The Lower Preveli monastery
Well worth a stop here. The beautiful old stone walls give the place its special atmosphere, flower pots everywhere, surrounded by cypress trees and olive groves and a bizzare mountain landscape in the background.
The Lower Monastery Preveli had the farming installations and facilities and was the staying place mainly of the younger monks and civilian personnel. One of the chambers was designed to be used as an olive-oil mill, and the monks’ workshops included a saddle- maker’s shop, a carpenter’s workshop, a shoemaker’s workshop, a basket weaving shop and a shop for the repair of farming tools.
The Church (Katholikon) in the center of the courtyard is a single nave building with an arched roof. The Icons and the remaining relics which have been saved from the various loots and destructions are kept in the museum of the Rear Monastery.
The Rear Preveli Monastery
The Rear Preveli Monastery is situated at the foot of a mountain overlooking the vast blue Libyan Sea. To the left of the main entrance lies the picturesque little cemetery of the monks, which its chapel of the Holy Trinity and church – shaped ossuary.
The water needs of the monastery were covered by a simply carved fountain still in use, which bears the date ΑΨΑ (1701) and an inscription. Almost directly opposite the fountain is the entrance to a long, enclosed chamber, used as a stabling unit. It has recently been turned into the new museum of the Preveli Monastery.
In the center of the courtyard stands the present church (Katholikon) of the Monastery, built on the side of the older, probably frescoed church which was demolished in 1835. The building of the church was delayed by the Turks and finally was completed in 1837 and was consecrated for use in the same year.
The Preveli Monastery was for three centuries the most important center due to its leading role in the local society of the nearby provinces, where due to the landscaping territory the Turkish occupation force allowed a peculiar system of political tolerance and a limited state of freedom. The Preveli Monastery was and is a religious center and consequently the place of gathering and social contact of the population.