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traditional villages, Crete

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Vrontisi (Moni Agiou Antoniou Vrodisiou)

Vrontissi monastery is located 49km southwest of Heraklion, between the villages of Zaros and Vorizia, with  a panoramic view overlooking the plain of Messara. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Anthony and is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete.

Its name derives probably from its founder, but the exact date of its erection has not been confirmed yet. Originally it was a dependency of the nearby monastery of Valsamonero, but later it became so rich that evolved into one of the greatest monastic centers of Crete, far exceeding in wealth its parent monastery.

Tradition says that Michael Damaskinos and El Greco, the most important representatives of the Cretan School of Iconography, have lived and worked in Vrontissi. Indeed, six icons of Damaskinos that are today exhibited at the Museum of St. Catherine in Heraklion were formerly housed in Vrontissi. The frescoes that have survived in the church date back in the 14th century show influences from the Renaissance and highlight the quality of artistic expression that had developed there.

The church is a two-aisled church dedicated to St. Anthony (celebr. 17 January) and St. Thomas (celebr. first Sunday after Easter). The bell tower is an independent structure built with Venetian architecture. Some frescoes are preserved in the south aisle: the Supper at Emmaus, the Apostles, Minologia and Saint Symeon holding baby Jesus at his hands. In the church you will see the icon of Ambelos, dating back in the 16th century, drawn by the Cretan artist Angelo.

The monastery was fortified, but the walls were demolished for the sake of modernization. The most impressive building that reflects the bygone glory of the monastery is the imposing fountain of the 15th century depicting Adam and Eve. At their feet there are 4 figures with flowing water from their mouths, which symbolize the 4 rivers of Eden. The fountain is the most beautiful provincial sample of fountains in Crete. The Turks used to call Vrondisi as Santrivanli Monastir, i.e. Fountain Monastery.

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