January 17, 2022

The Chapel of Saint Anthony the Great in Patsos Gorge of Crete

In the fertile green province of Amari, on the island of Crete, about 18 km from Rethymno, is the impressive Patsos Gorge, otherwise known as Saint Anthony's Gorge.

The beautiful gorge, which is 2 km long, crosses a small river. The wild vegetation of the landscape with the giant plane trees and the small waterfalls captivates the visitor.

It takes 2 hours to cross it all the way back, while inside there are landscaped rest areas and a bird observatory.

The Chapel of Saint Anthony stands out.

It is built in the recess of a large cave, where there is a spring that gushes forth holy water.

Next to the chapel, on a rocky ledge, there was an altar of the ancient pagan sanctuary.

Thousands of years ago, ceremonies were held associated with the Minoan worship of nature that focused on the mystery of the change of seasons and the renewal of the cycle of vegetation. The sanctity of the area remained untouched from the Minoan era until the first centuries of the Roman conquest of the island. Votive objects were discovered in the area of the altar, small spearheads, sacred clay horns, while in an inscription of the 1st c., reference is made to the worship of Hermes. The special preference for Hermes that was worshiped throughout the island as a protector of shepherds and forests, is confirmed by the finding of a bronze statuette, of the 1st-3rd c. A.D., depicting him with feathered sandals, a pointed helmet, quiver, and a hunting trophy in his right hand. In Roman times it was natural to add to the worship of Hermes that of Pan, the god of forests, a statue of which was discovered in the vicinity. Later, with the spread of Christianity, through a process of osmosis very widespread in Crete, pagan veneration was transformed into the veneration of Saint Anthony the Great.

The Chapel of Saint Anthony is considered a source of miracles, as testified by the votive offerings on the wall of the cave and the crutches left there, and on the feast of the Saint on January 17th crowds of people come to honor him.