January 8, 2022

The Cave Church of Saint John the Forerunner of Damialis in Crete

In the west of the island of Crete, passing from Kastelli Kissamos in the direction of the famous beaches of Falassarna and Balos, you will see on the side of the road the Cave Church of Saint John the Forerunner of Damialis, as the locals call it.

The place name Damialis was given because in this area during the Turkish occupation there was the damia, that is, the stable of Ali, an Ottoman cattle breeder who was active in these places.

The place where the church was built, as you can see in the photographs, is a large cave in one part of which the church was formed, and in the second beautiful representations were erected from the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of the Lord, in an imposing way, while the middle part of the cavitation is the yard.

The church, according to tradition and from the stories of older people, during the Hierarchy of Anthimos Leledakis, Bishop of Kissamos and Selinos, has a history of many centuries.

It is believed that it was founded by the Great Holy Father of Western Crete, Saint John the Stranger, who, passing to the Mediterranean (the area leading to Balos), probably spent the night in this cave.

In a marble inscription, which exists at the entrance of the church, we read that a church existed from the 10th century but was demolished by the Ottomans in 1866.

With great difficulty, due to the fact that the place was inaccessible (before the national road passed outside the cave), it was rebuilt from scratch, at the initiative of Antonios Emmanuel Katsikandarakis with the help of Emmanuel Kriezis and Demetrios Varmaris, in 1946. It was consecrated on June 24, 1947 by the late Bishop Eudokimos Siggelakis of Kissamos and Selinos.

Before the road was opened, there was the cave and the sea was in front of it, so the locals had to carry stones from afar and transport them there to build the church.

Crowds gather for the Divine Liturgy that is held there on Christmas Eve but also on January 7 when it celebrates the Synaxis of Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist. Also in this church many mysteries are performed (baptisms and weddings), especially in the summer.

Because the place where it is located is a passageway, for the beautiful beaches that we meet further west, you will always see believers stop to light a candle and worship or just to see the cave church and its sites. 

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.