November 30, 2016

Monastery of Saint Andrew in Mirabello, Crete

The province of Mirabello hosted small monasteries with the greatest density than any other region of Crete. It is characteristic that in the small area of Upper Mirabello, i.e. the mountainous area north of Neapolis, over 20 small monasteries were developed.

Unlike other areas of Crete, where asceticism was developed in caves, here we meet mostly small monasteries where 2-3 monks lived together. Indeed, many current settlements in Upper Mirabello were originally developed around monasteries. Almost all monasteries today do not operate, but their churches have survived.

It is not known when the original Monastery of Saint Andrew was built but it was long ago, and it is one of the most isolated along the wild shores of Mirabello. The church is built into a rock over a cave and next to it are several pine trees.

According to tradition, a shepherd found an icon of Saint Andrew in this cave, and although he brought it to his home, the next day it was missing and he found it back in its original cave. Confounded by this, the next day the shepherd again brought it to his house, but the following day it was again found back in its original cave, apparently moving there on its own. This was repeated, until the shepherd realized that Saint Andrew wanted his icon to remain in its cave. For this reason he built a church dedicated to Saint Andrew over the cave.

Most of the year water runs inside the cave, while oil lamps hang from the ceiling. Around the church are some old cells where hermits used to live. A bell tower bears an inscription which says: "An Offering from the Lepers of Spinalonga." Nearby is the tomb of Monk John Lamprakis, who restored the church in 1850.

In 1850 Monk John had discovered the ruins of the Monastery, and he desired to rebuild it. He made this the purpose of his life, and immediately set upon trying to raise funds to have this done. Disappointed that he was unable to accomplish his goal, he went to work as a sailor between the Greek islands in order to raise for himself the necessary funding for the restoration. As the story goes, one day he was on his boat going around Crete when a sudden terrible storm came and forced his boat onto shore. The sailor Lamprakis then told the captain of the ship about his dream to restore the church. He later took the captain to the location of the Monastery, and the captain donated to him the necessary funding to restore it. He therefore was able to restore it, and he lived there as a hermit for the rest of his life.

One could easily visit the Monastery today, as there is a concrete road from Finokalia leading straight to its entrance. Amid the wild scenery is the calm blue Cretan sea, and you can find rest under the shade of the pine trees next to the Monastery, then pray in the cave church. The beautiful courtyard of the Monastery has a wooden semantron and iron bells.