The following article, published earlier this summer in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet, recalls a lovely summertime visit to the Orthodox church of Agia Triada, near Chania in western Crete. Along with the church bells, that occasionally puncture the wide blue sky, it is the omnipresent drone of crickets that is the most memorable auditory sensation here.
The monastery, like the island, has a unique history due to the long Venetian occupation (1204-1669) if this strategic island. Due to it, a unique cultural mix of Catholic and Orthodox, Italian and Greek Byzantine developed, leaving its mark in the local architecture, language, food and customs.
The Monastery of Agia Triada is also particularly well known in Greece for its priceless historic collection of books, ecclesiastical decor, coins and above all the richly painted icons – some as old as the 15th century – that come from the ‘Cretan School’ of icon painting, which had a great influence in the Italian Renaissance and the Western orientation towards Christian art through that period.
Unsurprisingly, the monastery has a lavish gift shop, so if you like your icons encased in Swarovski silver, you are in luck. But the most interesting element for many is found below ground, in the cool former refectory, where the ancient (and long disused) olive oil press is located. Barrels and barrels of house wine are also crammed in down here, and the wine, olive oil and monastic honey are all for sale as well.
Since there are only a handful of monks, hospitality is unfortunately not available, but Agia Triada is a quick drive from both Chania and the international airport, making it one of Crete’s most accessible monasteries (and most visited, too).