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May 7, 2017

Synaxis of All Saints of Gortyna and Arkadia in Crete

On the first Sunday of May, we commemorate all the Saints who shined forth in Gortyna and Arkadia of Crete. For a list of Saints celebrated on this day, see here.

The Metropolis of Gortyna and Arkadia with its seat at Moires ­occupies the southwest part of the district of Heraklion. Its territory coincides to a great extent with that of the ancient metropolis of Gortyna, whose seat was the homonymous city that was the political and ­religious center of Crete from the first Christian years, and apart from being the seat of the Metropolis of Crete, it was also the civil capital of the island.

The history of the Metropolis of Gortyna and Arkadia is connected ­inextricably with the missionary activity of the Apostles Paul and Titus. The first contact of the Apostle Paul with the area in AD 59/60 defined the ­Christian history of Crete when, while he was being led to Rome for trial, the ship moored at “some place called Fair Havens [Kaloi Limenes] which was close to the town of Lasaia” (Acts, 27:8). Today, a small cavernous cavity in the rock, as a pilgrimage site, and a newly-built church on top of an early Christian basilica, dedicated to the Apostle Paul, are ­reminiscent of his passage through the coastal area of Kaloi Limenes.

Subsequently, in AD 63, during his fourth apostolic mission, the Apostle Paul commissioned the organization of the Church of Crete to his disciple, the Apostle Titus. Titus, with his seat at Gortyna, ordained the first bishops in the various cities of the island: “The reason I left you in Crete was so that you might put in order what was left ­unfinished and appoint priests [lit. ­presbyters] in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). The Apostle Titus consecrated the first Bishops in various cities of the island, while his successors in Gortyna beyond the apostolic years had the honor of Primus inter Paribus among the other Bishops of the island and were presiding in the Local Synods.

The predominant successors of the Apostle Titus in the Metropolis of Gortyna were Sts. Philip, Dioscoros, Cresces, the martyr Cyrillus, the martyr Peter the Young and Paul, who had done the translation of the relics of the Ten Saints, that had been tortured in the reign of Decius in 250 in Gortyna. The decrees of the First Ecumenical Synod, recognize and establish the metropolitan rights of the Bishop of Gortyna within the Synod of the Bishops of the island.

Throughout the First Byzantine era (330-824/8), the Sacred Eparchial Synod of Crete had its See in the Metropolis of Gortyna. During the First Byzantine period, great Hierarchs had held the throne, like the wonderworking St. Myron and St. Eumenios, and others with incomparable pastoral, hierapostolical, antiheretical and theological writings, as St. Ikonios, Martyrios, Theodore, Basil and Elias, who participated in the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Penthekte and Seventh Ecumenical Synods. St. Andrew the Hymnographer, during the first half of the 8th century, was of great significance for the whole island. The blooming of the Church of Crete was interrupted by the Arabic Conquest of 824. The latest research in ecclesiastical history lists 27 names of Bishops of Gortyna and Archbishops of Crete, from Apostle Titus to St. Eutychios.

During the Arabic Conquest the local church remained without Bishops and the people were suffering a lot due to inhumane slavery and cruel Islamization. During that period (824-961) two Metropolitans of Crete with the name Basil are mentioned who were forced to live away from the island. The Arabs destroyed Gortyna and transferred the political center of Crete to the north, to the city of Heraklion, that was an episcopal See, and they fortified the city with a deep trench which gave the name Chandax to the city.

With the liberation of Crete in 961 from the great and pious Emperor Nikephoros Phokas, the Church of Crete was reorganized as a Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate while the Episcopal Sees were reconstituted. The chair of the Metropolis was transferred to Chandax, and the region of the old Metropolis, in Gortyna, continued to be a part of the Metropolis of Crete. St. John the Stranger, from the village of Siva in Messara of Crete, and St. Nikon the Metanoite worked apostolically during the same period after the liberation of 961, for the re-evangelisation of the Cretan people. Many names of Metropolitans of Crete are saved, among whom the exemplar scholar, qualified writer and canonologist Elias.

In 1204 Crete was seized by the Venetians who expelled the Orthodox Bishops, they established Latin Bishops, and they exercised immeasurable pressure, like torture and proselytism. The consecration of the deacons and the presbyters of the Orthodox Church had to take place outside of Crete. That period and under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, great ecclesiastical men worked for the support of Orthodoxy, such as the Metropolitan of Philadelphia Gabriel Seviros, Anthimos of Athens and President of Crete (1340-1366) and Joseph Bryennios, a pious confessor and monk. During the Venetian Occupation the orthodox monasteries flourished, and they maintained Orthodox spirituality and contributed to the renaissance of the letters and arts. Great Orthodox monasteries within the borders of the modern Metropolis of Gortyna and Arkadia which flourished during that period were: the Monasteries of Balsamoneron, Brontision, Kardiotissa, Odegetria, Apezanes, Lord-Mercy, (the nowadays village Kapetaniana), Three Hierarchs in Mount Kophinas, and a plethora of ascetic settlements in the Asterousia mountains. Holy monks lived during that period, such as the hermit Arsenios, who introduced St. Gregory the Sinaite to Noetic Prayer which was spread by him to Athos. At the same time, we have scholars, as Joseph Philagris.

In 1669 the Ottomans seized the whole of Crete, expelling the Venetians. The Church of Crete was reorganized as an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the reconstitution of the Sacred Metropolis of Crete and most of the Bishoprics. Heraklion continued to be the See of the Metropolitan of Crete and of the Sacred Eparchial Synod of Crete, even though the conquerors raised many obstacles to its proper functioning. Only in the second half of the 19th century it managed to function more freely. The Metropolitan of Crete participated in the Sacred and Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and was elected by that Synod. With his recommendation the remaining Bishops of Crete were elected. The monasteries that had not been destroyed by the conquerors, continued to function either as a Stavropegion or as an Hierarchical, giving valuable services to the conservation of the Orthodox faith and the Romanity self-consciousness. There were many Neomartyrs during that same period.

With the liberation from the Ottomans in 1900 and the formal recognition of the autonomous Cretan State, the Orthodox Church of Crete was reorganized maintaining firmly its canonical and administrative subordination to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. With the Constitution Law 276/1900 the Bishopric of Arkadia was reconstituted to a larger Eparchy that included the greater part of the ancient Metropolis of Gortyna having its See in the village of Agioi Deka (Ten Saints). Basil Markakis (1902-1940), Metropolitan of Crete, was enthroned as Bishop of Arkadia. He was succeeded by Eugenios Psalidakis (1946-1950), who transferred the See from Agioi Deka (Ten Saints) to Moires, and eventually was elected Metropolitan and later Archbishop of Crete. Eugenios was succeeded by Timotheos Papoutsakis (1956-1978) as Bishop of Arkadia and later Metropolitan of Gortyna and Arkadia, while eventually elected as Archbishop of Crete. Timotheos was succeeded as Metropolitan of Gortyna and Arkadia by Kyrillos Kypriotakis (1980-2005). With the latest and still valid Charter of the Orthodox Church of Crete (Law 4149/1961) the Bishopric of Arkadia was named Bishopric of Gortyna and Arkadia. In 1962 it was raised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a Metropolis. Nowadays, the Sacred Metropolis has 6 Monasteries, 108 parishes and 124 clerics.

All Hierarchs of Gortyna and Arkadia

Megalynarion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us the faithful honor, the divine shepherds of Gortyna who shined with virtues, worked numerous miracles and did God-loving works, and let us embrace their divine icon.

All Martyrs of Gortyna and Arkadia

Megalynarion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us sing hymns to the Martyrs of Christ, who truly sanctified the land of Gortyna, with the spilling of their blood and numerous miracles, thus adorning the entire Church.

All Venerables of Gortyna and Arkadia

Megalynarion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Come let us praise O faithful, the Venerable Fathers of Gortyna, its divine guardians, all who are known and unknown, who shined forth through their miracles and asceticism.