Chania Agia Triada Tsagarolon

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Location: Marathi

Located on the Akrotiri Peninsula, around 15 kilometers from Chania Town, the Monastery of Agia Triada Tsagarolon is one of the most important religious complexes of the late period of the Venetian occupation of Crete. This is a prime example of the Cretan Renaissance, which became a model for a whole series of other monasteries in the wider area.


The convent was built in the early 17th century by Ieremias and Lavrentios Zangaroli at the site of a pre-existing smaller one. The two brothers came from a Venetian-Cretan family with considerable influence on both Orthodox and Catholic local residents. The friar Ieremias had received extensive Greek and Classical education and had also studied architecture, so he decided to make a bigger complex, which he designed himself. After his death in 1634, the construction was carried on by his brother, who was also a monk; however, in 1645, it was interrupted by the Ottoman occupation of Chania. During the 1821 Greek War of Independence, it was burned down by the Ottomans, and many of its relics were destroyed. Yet, nine years later, permission was given for the works to be resumed, so that the domes and the chapels were eventually completed in 1836. The belfry was erected in 1864.

Between 1892 and 1905, it functioned as a seminary, while during the 1896-1897 Cretan revolt, it served as a hospital and as headquarters of the insurgents. During the Second World War, it was first used as a supply depot by the Greeks, and then by the Germans, who set up an anti-aircraft artillery school there in 1942.

What to see and do

The first thing visitors can see is a monumental staircase leading to the imposing front gate and the bell tower. On either side of the gate, there is a pair of high Ionic pillars supporting the entablature, while above them there are another two pairs of Corinthian pillars forming a semicircular arc. At the top, there is a large pediment bearing an inscription in Greek, while two smaller pediments have been sculpted above the Corinthian columns. From there, an arched corridor leads to an ample patio, where stands the main church (the katholikon), which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Built in the Byzantine cruciform style and boasting a narthex and three domes, the katholikon has an elaborately adorned stone facade, with two large Doric and one smaller Corinthian column on either side of the main entrance. Both its architectural features and its decoration bear traces of a strong Western influence. The ornately carved wooden altarpiece, which is plated with gold, was crafted in 1836, and most of its icons seem to have been painted by Merkourios Sigalas, an iconographer from the island of Santorini.

Despite subsequent additions, the Monastery retains its original form in the Mannerist style, which had been prevalent in Crete since the mid-16th century. At the same time, the educational background of its designers is evinced by several bilingual inscriptions. The Zangaroli brothers had been deeply influenced by the work of the Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio and the ideas he had expounded in the Libro Estraordinario, which is evident not only in the design of the main gate but also in the solutions used to cope with the inclination of the ground. Thus, the sloping surface is transformed into an artificial flat courtyard, under which there is a big cistern and agricultural facilities. Thus, the western part of the edifice is three-storeyed on the outside and two-storeyed on the inside, as the ground floor becomes the basement.

The main church is flanked by two smaller domed chapels with beautiful 17th-century altarpieces. One is dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi (the Life-giving Spring) and the other to Saint John the Theologian, while an elegant little temple dedicated to Christ the Savior also stands in the courtyard. Of particular interest are the underground domed ossuary, the refectory, the former Abbot’s quarters, as well as the subterranean domed oil mill, the big water tank and the wine cellars. The eastern wing consists of a large building that used to house the Ecclesiastical School, while the northern side is taken up by the new oil mill and other ancillary structures.

Besides, there is a library containing rare books, as well as a small museum comprising a marvelous collection of wood carvings, icons and codices. Important exhibits include a portable icon of Saint John the Theologian dating back to the early 1500s, the Last Judgement, a 17th-century work by the notable Renaissance painter Emmanuel Skodilis, and a plethora of impressive 19th-century masterpieces. In the museum, visitors can also marvel at surplices embroidered with gold, manuscript scrolls from the 12th century, books, crosses and other religious relics.

Today, the Monastery is engaged in organic farming and produces exquisite wine, raki, olive oil and honey, as well as vinegar and olive soaps. Many of its products have received awards in international competitions, and it goes without saying that you can buy whatever you want from the shop operating on the premises.

Tip: Before leaving, take the time to stroll around the patio and marvel at the unique sight of the lush bougainvilleas, oleanders and other seasonal plants that climb on the wells and the staircases, adding to the beauty of the place. Few other monasteries in Crete boast such a lovely and tastefully decorated courtyard.



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