The church of Agia Ekaterini (Saint Catherine) of Sinaites in Heraklion: The church of Agia Ekaterini (Saint Catherine) of Sinaites is located close to the Cathedral of Saint Minas, in the heart of Heraklion town, and has given its name to the square of Saint Catherine. This square is today a distinguishing part of the town, with cafeterias, playgrounds for children and lots of pigeons. Surrounded by modern buildings and blocks of flats, this stone Venetian church seems out of time.
This church was formerly a dependency of the Monastery of Sinaites. The Monastery of Saint Ekaterini was established in the 10th century but the church was probably built in the 16th century, during the Venetian times.
From the mid 16th to the mid 17th century, the Monastery of Saint Ekaterini of Sinaites worked as a university school and many prominent members of the local community studied there. Graduates include famous Cretan writers, like Vitsentzos Cornaros, philosophers, theologians and artists. It is said that even the famous painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos, or else El Greco, studied there.
After Heraklion was occupied by the Turks in 1669, the church was converted to a Muslim mosque, till the early 20th century, when Crete got free. Today, Saint Catherine hosts the Ecclesiastical Museum of Heraklion, exhibiting many rare icons painted by Michael Damaskinos, a representative of the Cretan School of Icon Painting, as well as ecclesiastical vestments, manuscripts, and frescoes. It is open every day in the morning for visitors, but service is held only once a year on the name day of Saint Catherine, on November 25th.
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