Heraklion Skotino Cave

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Location: Gouves

The Cave of Agia (Saint) Paraskevi is located near Skotino village in Gouves, about 22 km southeast of Heraklion Town. Situated at an altitude of 225 meters, the cave is 10 meters high and 27 meters wide. It was mainly used as a cult place in ancient times and later as a religious center for Christians. According to research, the cave used to serve as a place of worship for the local deity Britomartis in Minoan times. A lot of the stalagmites seem to have been treated as religious objects during that time.

Before you enter the cave, you will see a Byzantine chapel dedicated to Saint Paraskevi. It was built during the Venetian era on the remains of an ancient temple. The saint is celebrated every year on July 26, and a large feast is held there in honor of her memory. As you move forward, you will come across many chambers of different heights and sizes. The first room you will see as you enter is the Great Temple, where impressive stalagmites and stalactites can be found. On the far left of this room, you will descend a path that leads you to the sanctuary. If you move forward, you will enter a smaller room called the altar, where sacrifices for the gods used to take place during ancient times. Lots of peculiar names and symbols have been inscribed on the walls close to this praying room. Between the Sanctuary and the Altar, there’s a path leading you to the House of Worship. Finally, the two last rooms are called the Hall of Prayer and the Church.

The cave has been explored by several researchers, with the first one being Evans in 1933. Later on, in 1962, archaeologist Davaras discovered ceramic objects and bronze figures, which indicated that the cave was a place of religious worship during the Minoan era. According to speleologist Faure, the cave was the famous Labyrinth of the Minotaur, who was killed by the hero Theseus, according to the Greek Mythoogy.

The Cave of Agia Paraskevi is not open to the public, as it’s considered dangerous because of its depth. The stalagmites and stalactites hidden inside are truly admirable, while some impressive forms in the shape of a woman, a smiling child, a dog, and a bear have also been observed. They are believed to be linked to the worship of three deities: the goddess Mother, the goddess Virgin, and another young god.



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