November 25, 2010

Saint Katherine of the Sinai Monastery in Heraklion, Crete

The Monastery of Saint Katherine of Sinai, to the northeast of Saint Minas, was formerly a dependency of the Monastery of Mount Sinai, which bestowed the church to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Minas in 1924.

The Monastery of Saint Katherine was founded around the 10th century and the building preserved today was its main church (katholikon). The church was built in the 16th century and is obviously influenced by Venetian architecture.

The Monastery of St Katherine had an income sufficient to support a large monastic community. In the period between 1550 and 1640, the School of St Katherine of Sinai became a school of university learning, teaching Ancient Greek authors, Philosophy, Theology, Rhetoric and Art. Many graduates of the school distinguished themselves in Greek literature.

After the fall of Heraklion to the Turks in 1669, the church was converted into the Zulfikar Ali Pasha Mosque. It remained a mosque until the last Muslims left Heraklion in 1922, at the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey.

From 1967 to the present, the church of Saint Katherine has housed an important exhibition of Byzantine icons and religious objects including manuscripts, vestments, and wall paintings, representing six centuries of Orthodox history (14th-19th century).

The atmospheric church is also home to six unique works by the famous icon-painter Michael Damaskinos, a major exponent of the Cretan School.

A service is held in the church every year on 25 November, the feast of St Katherine. The exhibition is open daily from 9.30 to 15.30, with an entry ticket.

Read more here.