“Free Besieged” the Cretans in the cave of Melidoni

Arkadi (a European monument of freedom), Ideon Andron (the “home” of Crete-born Zeus), Zominthos (the Greek worship center of Ideon Andron),Fortezza ( the Venetian fortress) and the captivation  of the German officer Kreipe (Hitler’s famous officer) constitute the first historical evidence that shows that  the prefecture of Rethymnon leads in literature and the liberation struggles, according to the data the Cretan Business Magazine “In-On” collected from: the Municipality of Rethymnon, the Holy Metropolis of Rethymnon and Avlopotamos, the Municipality of Anogeia, the Municipality of Mylopotamos, the Municipality of Amari, the Pan-Hellenic Association of Mylopotamians, the researcher-writer Georgios Panayiotakis as well as the Cretan Business Magazine “In-On”.
The very early evidence of life in Rethymnon, date back the late Minoan period (1350-1250 B.C.). Ancient “Rithymna” reached its peak during the 4th and 3rd century B.C, as it is shown by the gold and silver coins of that period. However, it gradually began to decline and it was considered during the Roman times an insignificant village. Regarding the following historical periods (Arabic and Α’ Byzantine), the information about the area is limited or none. Regarding the second Byzantine era (961-1204 A.D.), there is evidence that there was a small fortified settlement, called “Castell Vecchio”.
After the Fourth Crusade (1204), Crete was given to Boniface of Montferrat, who immediately sold it to the Venetians. After a short occupation of the island by the Genoese, due to the fact that the Venetians neglected to occupy it, Crete was occupied again by the latter.
The Venetians soon realized the significance of the position of the port of Rethymnon, since the port handled important quantities of goods. In 1540, due to the fact that the city expanded outside the settlement of Castell Vecchio and the upcoming Turkish threat, the Venetian authorities decided to surround the city with a new fortress wall. However, the weaknesses of the new fortification became apparent in 1571, during the pirate raid of Ulutz-Ali, who without the slightest resistance entered the city and completely destroyed it by fire. Two years later, in 1573, “Fortezza” was established on the hill of Paleokastro, so as the city to better cope with impending raids and sieges.
Finally, in 1646 Rethymnon fell to the Turks and the complete occupation of the island followed a few years later. This situation lasted till 1897, with an interruption of a small Egyptian occupation (1830-1840). Throughout the Turkish conquest, a host of revolutions shook the island and this culminated in the revolution in 1866 and the holocaust of Arkadi.
In 1897, the Great Powers decided the occupation of the island. Rethymnon was occupied by Russian and Polish troops, which deserted the island in 1907. In 1908, the Cretans took advantage of the international developments and declared the union of Crete with Greece. The Cretan issue had a happy ending in 1913, after the victorious Balkan Wars, when the official union was signed.
In 1924, the Cretan Turks departed for Asia Minor, under the treaty of Lausanne, which provided for the population exchange between the two countries. Their place was taken by Greek refugees from Asia Minor.
During World War II, Rethymnon was bombarded by the Germans and a lot of buildings were destroyed. Due to these particular characteristics, the Old City was characterized in 1967 as a Historical Preserved Monument, and in 1985 as a Traditional Settlement.
Fortress of Fortezza was built between the years 1573-1580 by the Venetians in order to protect the residents from the Turkish threat. It is star-shaped with three gates and six bastions. The Paleokastro hill was chosen for its location since it offers an endless view from the land and the sea. Its total length is 1307 meters including four bastions and three spikes. It took 76800 chores from all the residents of the county to be completed and it was constructed with regular rectangular stones by G. Skordilis, a master craftsman. In the center, the church of S. Nicolo was converted into the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Khan. It used to be the residence of the Governor, the councilor, cantonment areas and stables, ammunition depots, tank water as well as houses which were destroyed later.
The Fortezza Castle which has not been systematically excavated so far hosts the following areas:
-The Residence of the Rector
-The Cathedral which was founded in 1583 and was dedicated to St. Nicholas. In 1648, Ibrahim Khan converted it into a mosque after adding a large dome of 11 meters in diameter. In the area there are also two churches of St. Catherine and St. Theodore, the Trihinas.
-Two powder warehouses.
-The tanks. The cement parapet on the eastern side dates back World War II and leads to the room where the Cretan fighters of the Resistance were imprisoned and executed by the Nazis.
Fountain Rimondi was built in 1626 by the rector of the town Α. Rimondi. This project covered a part of the water supply needs of the city and it is situated in the present Platanos square, formerly the center of the Venetian city. It consists of three basins in which water flows from three lion-headed spouts. There are three fluted columns which are crowned with Corinthian capitals and bear an architrave with a Latin inscription. During the Ottoman era, the fountains were preferred to exist in sheltered areas. Thus, a dome was added, a part of which survives till today.
The Loggia was built in the 16th century based on the designs of the famous Venetian architect Michel Sanmicheli. The Loggia constituted a gathering and meeting point of the nobles who discussed political and economical, financial and political issues.  Immediately after the Turkish conquest, it was converted into a mosque and a minaret was constructed, which was demolished in 1930. During the last 40 years, it housed the city’s Archaeological Museum.
However, since the museum moved to a building outside Fortezza, Loggia hosts a shop that sells reproductions from the Archaeological Resources Fund.
The new three-aisle church of Four neo-martyrs namely Angelis, Manuel, George and Nicholas has been constructed on top of older churches, east of the square with the same name and close to the place of their martyrdom.  The four neo-martyrs martyred in 1824 and were established immediately as saints in the minds and consciousness of the Christians. Very early, probably the following year of their martyrdom, the Christian Rethymnians conducted mass dedicated to their memory. Later, they acknowledged them as protectors of the modern city.
In the altar screen of the temple there are icons by Photis Kontoglou , such as Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, John the Baptist as well as the Four Martyrs dared back in 1955.
Within an elaborated reliquary which is located in the sanctuary of the church, the holy skulls of three of the four neo-martyrs are kept.
The Metropolitan Cathedral, the Great Temple of Virgin Mary was founded on 10th April, 1844. The works were completed in 1856.The damages due to the bombardments in the World War II imposed its demolition  in 1956, along with the nearby buildings, the formulation of the area and the construction of the former greater temple of  the Presentation of Virgin Mary (21st November ).
On the southwest corner of the temple there is a bell tower, which was constructed in 1899.  The altar screen is the work of the Cycladic wood carver Demetrios Ragouzis and it was constructed in1852.
St. Barbara’s church was constructed in 1885 on the position of an older temple in the name of the same saint, patron of Rethymnon and it has appeared in the Venetian maps since 1613.
During the Ottoman era, this area belonged to a Turkish-Rethymnian, who had turned it into a hammam (public bath). Suddenly, a deadly illness struck which affected only the Muslim families, while the Christians that invoked the help of St. Barbara got healed.  In order the Ottomans to escape from this disease, they persuaded a person from their religion to give space to the Christians so as to construct a temple in honor of their saint, which actually happened.  From 1898 till 1907, the temple was given to the Russian occupation forces in order to carry out their religious duties.
The mosque was named by the Turkish commander of naval operations during the occupation of Rethymnon, in 1646. On this very spot, during the Venetian era, there was a monastery dedicated to St. Barbara. West of the main building there is the ruined minaret of the mosque, which is not visible from the road due to the tall and dense vegetation. In this area there also exists a roofed domed fountain, which has two sides: one side on Arkadiou Street and the other on the mosque’s yard. The entrance to the mosque is accessible under the dome. Within the yard there exists a tourbes (a vaulted funerary construction), where probably the founder of the mosque was buried. Today, in this area a maintenance laboratory is housed that belongs to the13th Antiquities bureau.
It is one of the most significant monuments in Rethymnon. The church of St. Francis constituted the main temple of the monastery of the Order of the Franciscans. It is impressive to see the entrance doorway with capitals of a complex rhythm.
Significant Cretan city which was located in the present village of Argyroupolis, southwest the city of Rethymnon and within 27 km distance from it. According to Mycenaean traditions, the founder of the city was Agamemnon. It used to be a powerful and financially independent city, since it covered a large part of the prefecture of Rethymnon, spreading from the Cretan to the Libyan Sea as well as regions from the current prefecture of Chania. During the disastrous for Lyttos war against Knossos (221-220 B.C.), Lappa even if it was an ally to Knossos, finally allied with other cities including Lyttos as well against Knossos. After the complete loss of Lyttos by the people of Knossos, the Lyttians resorted to their ally city of Lappa that provided them hospitality and helped them in the fight against Knossos, which they fought from this new position, however without result. Lappa is considered to be among the cities of Crete that concluded alliance with Teo in Ionia (193 π.Χ.) and also with Evmenis II, the king of Pergamum (183 π.Χ.). During the Roman civil war, Lappa supported the side of Octave’s against Antonius. After Octave’s victory, Lappa had special privileges and acted as an independent city. It got splendid buildings, baths, and minted coins and, as its ruins reveal, was in full prosperity. Actually, 24 coins were minted of various types during the years of autonomy and 12 coins during Roman times. The first coins depicted Apollo, Poseidon, Artemis as well as Athena. The coins of the Roman era depicted Roman emperors.  At those times the city also had its own mint.  In the region of Lappa, there has been found apart from coins, pottery of various eras, clay, bronze and marble statues, as well as many inscriptions. The diocese of Lappa is one of the oldest in Crete because it was founded by Apostle Titus. The city was destroyed by the Saracens when they conquered Crete.
The countless archeological findings in almost all the caves in the mountains of the island prove their significant worship role and the position they had in Minoan religion.  In an altitude of more than 900meters one can see Ideon Andron, (Ι499m.), the Minoan Palace of “Zominthos” (IΙ87m), as well as less known scattered sites on Nida plateau and in the wider area of “Zominthos”.
Zominthos is located half-way the Kalikratian municipality of Anogeia towards Ideon Andron and in an altitude of 1.187 meters, stressed in an interview to “In-On” magazine the archaeologist, Professor in the University of Athens and Honorary Curator of Antiquities Mrs. Efi Sakellaraki, wife of the professor of archeology Giannis Sakellarakis.
More particularly, Mrs  Sakellaraki clarifies that “Zominthos lies at a point where the routes towards the great Minoan but mainly Greek worship center of Ideon Andron meet, from north and east where Knossos is situated. Probably this is the access that is mentioned in Plato’s ‘Laws’ that led from Knossos to Ideon Andron. The area was permanently inhabited for 4.000 years, from the Minoan times till today, since an important habitation was reported after the Minoan, the Mycenaean, the Greek-Roman and Byzantine times as well as during the Venetian era, as the so-called “venetian creamery” shows and additionally during the Turkish times”.
According to Mrs Sakellarakis the main building was about 3 meters high, it had rooms with wall paintings, where in some of which the windows and the doors are still preserved. In the west side of the building there was the craft wing with a ceramic workshop in which a potter’s wheel was found as well as the position of the ceramist and his tools. Moreover, it has been found in a built-in construction the filtered soil for the construction of clay vessels many of which were put on shelves. A machining workshop of rock crystal was also found, a material that exists on the mount of Psiliritis and with which a variety of items have been made, mainly beads.
The settlement was established when the Byzantine Empire was at its peak at about 1000 A.D.
There is a possibility that it was founded when the general and later Byzantine emperor Nikiforos Fokas liberated Crete from the Arabs 912-969 A.D. and settled in Crete many Byzantine families so as to enlarge the Christian population.
The word Akounianos comes from the alteration of the name of the well-known Byzantine family of Komnini, a branch of which moved to Crete during the times of the emperor Nikiforos Fokas. In other words, the area that Komninos settled down and later Koumnianos, was called Koumia.
Rodakino is a village located 47 km southwest the city of Rethymnon, west Sellia village and it is amphitheatrically built on two hills.  On 24th May, 1821 in the area of Kurkulos the first flag of the revolution was raised by the Reverend Abbot of Preveli Monastery, Melchizedek Tsouderos. From Peristere bay, the German general Kreipe escaped. The handcuffs that the hostage was tied with were taken by a villager from Ano Rodakino named Emmanuel Kotsyfakis who has kept them till today.
In the same bay the allied submarines and torpedo boats beached, bringing supplies to the rebels that resisted against the Germans.
The village was burnt on 20th August, 1943 by the conquerors and many villagers from Rodakino were executed. The reason was the death of a German. It is also said that the village was evacuated for 2 years under the command of the Germans.  This fact was the reason why the villagers killed 6-7 Germans in the location of Frati.
AGIA KYRIAKI – Kourtaliotis gorge 
The church of St Kyriaki is considered miraculous, since it is said that during the wars and the revolutions none of the villagers was ever killed or harmed because they were protected by St Kyriaki. The temple is old of basilica rhythm.
In the northwest foothills of the mount of Ida, in an altitude of about 380 meters, and at a distance of 30 kilometers south of Rethymnon, the ancient city of Eleftherna is situated.
Today, ruins from different historical periods still exist that depict the life in ancient Eleftherna. According to tradition, the name of the city comes from Elefthereas, one of the Curetes or from the surname of Demetra Elefthous.
In the 3rd century B.C., Eleftherna was fighting against the Rhodians and their allies the Knossians.  When in 220 B.C. the Cretan cities were fighting against each other, Eleftherna supported Knossos. However, due to the siege of its opponents, the city was forced to abandon this alliance. In 68 B.C., when Metelllos attacked   Eleftherna, the city managed to resist for some time to the Roman siege because of the position of its fort but eventually it was seized due to betrayal.
The poet Linos comes from the city of Eleftherna, as well as philosopher Diogenes, the lyric poet Amitor and the sculptor Timoharis.
The architectural remains of the ancient city are mainly located on the eastern and northern slope, since geomorphology favored residential development in these areas. More particularly, on the northern slope carvings are visible and also configurations of the bedrock that were made to adapt the landscape to residential needs, providing at the same time the necessary building material.
It was located near Thronos village in the municipality of Amari, south the city of Rethymnon at a distance of 32 kilometers. It was at full prosperity during Greek and Roman times. Treaties were signed with Teo in Ionia in 193 B.C. and with Evmenis II of Pergamum in 183 B.C.  It extended to the Libyan sea and obviously its port was Soulian or Soulinan (today it is called Agia Galini). It minted 15 types of coins, among which silver ones that depicted Dionysus, Zeus, Hermes and Apollo as well as symbols of these gods.  Sivrytos survived till the first years of the Venetian rule. The area with its neighboring villages survived during middle Ages  till today under the name Sivrytos.
The Monastery of Arkadi is widely-known not only as a monument of Faith and the national liberation struggles of the Cretan people, but also as an international symbol of freedom and evidence of resistance against any form of malicious threat.
The Monastery was founded during the second Byzantine era (961-1204) or during the first years of Venetian rule in Crete. However, by the few and scarce pieces of information available it is concluded that Arkadi Monastery constituted a significant religious center with a thriving spiritual and financial life having also a high profile in the Orthodox world.
At the end of the 16th century, a radical internal reform and reorganization were realized and the current, bigger and more magnificent temple with the florid façade in a baroque style was built, dedicated to the Savior’s Transfiguration as well as to St Constantine and St. Helen.  These important renovation projects are associated with the two prominent families of Rethymnon, namely Hortatsis family and Kallergis family and were made to cover the increased needs of the Monastery of that time. During the same period and till the end of the Venetian rule, the Monastery was the center of Literature and Arts. A workshop for copying manuscripts, a school and a center of gold embroidery also operated while there was a rich library containing works of ancient writers.
During the Ottoman rule, the spiritual boom of the Monastery stopped. The Turkish army captured and sacked it.  However, it recovered soon and the new conquerors allowed the Monastery to have the privilege to use the church bells! The first bishop of Crete, Neofytos Patellaros, after the restoration of the hierarchy in the island originated from it. Since the third decade of the 19th century, the Monastery began to develop into a significant religious and national home where the most dramatic incident of the Great Revolution took place (1866-1869). The holocaust of Arkadi on the night of the 8th to the 9th November 1866 is one of these rare events which brighten the history of the Nation and remain unforgettable in our memory.
The Monastery continued to exist even after the Holocaust and kept on offering also during the times of Occupation and National Resistance till today. Its current nomination as a European Monument of Freedom and Civilization  as well as the onset of systematic works regarding its restoration , the preservation of its relics along with its function as a place of prayer and worship, act as the best vindication throughout its long history and its continued presence.
In its very interesting Ecclesiastical Museum one can see many of the rescued relics, the sacred banner, icons mainly of post-Byzantine period, weapons from the period of the Revolution, various objects of worship, gold-embroidered vestments of great artistic and historical value, manuscript codices, seals etc.
The Holy Monastery of Arsaniou is located north the Holy Monastery of Arkadi, 12 kilometers east of Rethymnon  on a plateau which covers a total area of about 10 acres. The first known written records regarding its history date back 1600. It was then that its fist church was inaugurated to honor St. Georgios, the great martyr.
In 1654, eight years after the Turkish raid and fifteen years before the final conquest of Crete, the Monastery received the first patriarchal signet and became Stavropegic.
During the last Cretan Revolution (1897-1898) Arsani experienced its own holocaust. Gabriel Klados, the abbot of the Monastery in a scuffle with the Turks, heroically died near Adele. This was the last offer of the Monastery just before the liberation of Crete.
The Monastery ceased to exist in 1900 and it was turned into an Agricultural station, but in 1903 it was reconstituted and continued its multiple offers. Its contribution was also significant in the Rethymnian Holocausts as well (1941-1944) as the monk Damianos Kalllergis was executed by the Germans on June 3rd, 1941 in Pagalochori.
Monastery of Prophet Elias, Roustika Rethymnon 
The Monastery of Prophet Elias is situated near the beautiful and lush in green Roustika village, 21 kilometers west of Rethymnon.
It is believed that the monastery belonged to the great Rethymnian family of Vlastos. During the Ottoman rule, a school operated in its premises, but the Monastery suffered a lot from the Turks’ arbitrary acts. In 1821, its valuable treasures were sold so as weapons and ammunition to be bought for the fighters. In 1823, it was destroyed by the Turks.
Later, in 1832 the new temple was destroyed during the revolution of  1866, when the Turks stayed there overnight while marching to Arkadi, but it was immediately rebuilt. The Monastery had a remarkable library, part of which was destroyed by the Turks while another one was stolen. A great number of manuscript codices is kept today in the National Library of Paris.
The Holy Stavropegic and Patriarch Monastery of Preveli are situated in the south of the prefecture of Rethymnon and it is subjected to the Diocese of Lambi and Sfakia constituting its holiest part.
There is strong evidence that the first core of the Monastery was organized in the building of Kato Monastery of the Baptist during the second Byzantine period of Crete at about the end  the  10th or the beginning of the 11th century when the  southern coasts of Crete filled with small and large monasteries.
The earliest date that is associated with the monastery is the year 1594, and it is engraved on the church bell.  The first name of the Monastery (before 1700), according to an old brass seal is: “of the Big River at the island of Crete”. Regarding the present name it is more possible that some monk called Prevelis that belonged to a Rethymnian family under  the same name was the renovator of the monastery.
The legendary Abbot Melchizedek Tsouderos (1803-1823) was a dominant figure during the first two years of the Revolution of 1821. Heroic Melchizedek participated in many battles and was mortally wooded in Polemarchi Kissamos on 5-2-1823.
Soon after the occupation of Crete by the Germans, excluded soldiers started gathering in the Monastery namely Greek, Australian, New Zealanders and British, so as to be eventually rescued and go to the Middle East by submarines from the region of Limni under the command of abbot Agathagelos. Thus, in 1941 the monastery also fulfills its historical purpose as in the past. On 25-8-1941, the Germans destroyed the monastery and a lot of monks were imprisoned in Chania.
At the end of 1943, the monastery was strong again to respond to its duty.
The Monastery of St John the Baptist is situated on the 33 kilometer of the new national road that connects Rethymnon and Herakleion and one kilometer southern this point.
The monastery existed since Venetian rule, but we are not aware when it was actually established.  Some fragments on frescoes in the church belong to the 14th century, but the earliest known written testimony about its history comes from a notary document of 1628, where we get informed that the monastery had a brotherhood at the time when its reconstruction began. Indeed, in the building complex there is significant evidence regarding the situation of the monastery during mid 17th century.
Throughout the Cretan War and after the final conquest of Crete by the Turks, the bay of Bali was used by Cretan rebels for military purposes and the Monastery of St John the Baptist was found in the midst of the revolutions.
During the great Cretan Revolution (1866-1869) the Turkish raids to the monastery were regular. In 1866, they plundered and desecrated it. Later abbot Gerasimos Pikrakis was distinguished for his struggles against the Turks. His achievements were sung by the Cretans.
The building of the Monastery of St Georgios Dioskouriou is fortress-like, walled and with respect to the traditional principles of monastic architecture.
We are not really aware when the first church was built, probably either in 1195, as the inscription that has been walled over the entrance refers or in 1630. The second date is more possible compared to the surviving inscriptions in the Monastery. The oldest known testimony about its history, after 1195, comes from a notary document of 1629.
In April 1676, just six and a half years from the final conquest of Crete by the Turks, the Monastery received the first patriarchal signet and became Stavropegic.
During the Revolution of 1821, the Monastery was burnt down by the Turks and the buildings were destroyed as well as the temple, the library and the files. The worst was that most of its monks were slaughtered. Only two out of the 20 monks survived among which abbot Melchizedek and monk Anthimos, who returned and lived in its ruins.
The participation of the Monastery during the revolution of 1866-1869 was multifaceted, yet, mainly agonistic and charitable and having as a leader the capable abbot Melchizedek Vardiabasis. He faced the Turks, provided hospitality to the volunteers of Petropoulakis and treated many women and children.
In 1875, a patriarchal document was issued against all those who ripped off the property of Vossakou and Halepas Monasteries.
Melchizedek remained abbot for many years and during the revolution of 1878 he was elected representative of the province of Mylopotamos. In the same revolution, the monk of the Monastery Gabriel Klados excelled as well who later, as an abbot in Arseniou Monastery, got killed during the revolution of 1897-1898.
In 1935, the Monastery was listed as a preserved building.  Since 1998, it is being restored at a fast pace not neglecting, however, the special care that is required in order to preserve the architecture and the surrounding environment.
Its location is clearly distinguished in the marvelous renaissance painting of Rethymnon that was painted in the beginning of the 17th century by an unknown till today artist.
Indeed, it dominates the western side of the hill, just above the water spring in the region of Koube. Thus, we come to the conclusion that in the beginning of the 17th century, the monastery had already been established.  If this was the first establishment, its life was short since it was completely destroyed in 1646, when the Turks conquered Rethymnon.
It was rebuilt and functioned again as a nunnery only in 1935. The Ecclesiastical Museum of the nunnery contains the library of the late bishop Titus Sylligardakis (1970-1987) along with many of his memorabilia.
St Irini Nunnery is located at the foot of Vrysina on a bedrock, near a settlement with the same name, 5 kilometers south the city of Rethymnon. According to sources, it is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. The earliest recorded material that testifies its existence comes from a Venetian document of 1362. The traveler F. W. Sieber mentions it in 1817 among other Cretan monasteries.
After the revolution of 1821, the monastery shrank and its brotherhood was limited to one or two monks. In the years that followed, the monastery suffered heavy damage.
The restoration was based on certain basic principles of monastic architecture tailored to the particular characteristics of the area and religious habits.
“In an altitude of 1.498,9 meters the most Cretan of the Cretan mountains encloses a cave which played a significant part in the history of Crete. The legend of the birth and upbringing of Zeus by Rhea, with the distinctive details regarding the swallowing of the stone in swaddling clothes by Saturn, the percussion of the shields by the Kouretas and also the goat Amaltheia that fed Zeus, gave food for thought to generations of pan-Hellenes pilgrims. Two big excavations in  Ideon Andron in 1885 and a hundred years later in 1982-85, confirmed the intensity of worship in this Bethlehem of antiquity”, refers the professor of Archaeology Giannis Sakellarakis.
He also stresses that «The famous bronze shields of Ideon Andron are among the finest works of arts of the ancient world. There were a lot of imports from Egypt and the Syrian – Palestinian shore as well as deeper in the East. Artists from northern Syria worked for the construction of the ivory throne of Zeus, which according to the tradition Pythagoras had seen them. Thousands of pilgrims had lamps in their hands which were manufactured not only in the various Cretan workshops, but also in other workshops in Corinth, Attica, Italy and Egypt. In Ideon Andron life started at the end of the 4th millennium B.C during late neolithic years and continues uninterrupted till today. Naturally, worship has distinct periods of prosperity namely the post-Minoan era, the 16th century B.C., the geometrical years, the 8th century B.C. and the Roman times.
Even in the years of Julian the Apostate, a man called Plutarch boasts that he was introduced into the mysteries of Ideon Andron. During the second millennium B.C., the recipient of the worship was the Minoan god of vegetation who dies and is reborn every year. For this reason, his successor the Crete-born Zeus, even though for all Greeks he is considered immortal, for the Cretans, however, he dies every year in   Ideon Andron and he is reborn. The same applies to the landscape. In winter time every trace of life is extinguished in order to revive again in spring».
Melidoni brothers the famous chieftains with Antony as the prominent one, were born in the traditional Melidoni village.
On October 1897, this was the place where the revolutionary Cretan Assembly met and accepted by resolution the autonomy that was given to our island.
At the side of Eleftherios Kyriakou Venizelos, Melidoni villagers stood by fighting for the Union of Crete with Mother Greece.
Northwest Melidoni village on a slope, the widely-known cave of Melidoni is situated, a worship place of Hermes, Zeus and Talos.
On October 1823, Hussein Veis continued his work of destruction and devastation of Crete. After the death of Hassan Pasha, he moves from Herakleion to Avlopotamus (Mylopotamus) province and camps at Melidoni because he knows that Melidoni played a vital role in the struggle for freedom.
And just before the Ottomans reached the village, three hundred  (370) men and women and thirty (30) armor bearers were on the way to the cave, where their future sacrifice  bestowed great historical weight  to Melidoni and its glory ascended to heaven.
The devil of annihilation accidentally gets informed that the Christians have gathered in the cave and tries to deceive them surrender.  Hussein got furious and rushes like a rabid dog over the innocent.  The Free Besieged endure, their heart does not let them surrender. They live in the cave for over than three months, under wretched conditions, conditions that no one can describe. Yet, they do not surrender, the power of their soul triumphs over all.
Hussein “over three months besieged using cannons and bombs and raided”, writes the University historian George Kremos in his work “Chronology of Greek History 1453-1830”.
As time passes by, the evil demon of Crete called Hussein Veis «bursts out of anger» according to the local dialect and puts in his mind to burn the fighters of freedom alive.
He pierces the roof of the cave and throws in oiled rags and other materials that burn easily, branches, logs, hay and firewood in the place that the innocent children were sleeping. When the wind turned favorable, blowing towards the direction of the hole, they lit the material to complete their evil plan. Suffocated atmosphere was then created that not even one of those helpless creatures survived due to the heavy smoke.
On January 24th, 1824 the genocide was achieved.
It is situated one kilometer northwest village Patsos Amari, within a distance of 31 kilometers from Rethymnon. The cave is located on the hillside of the densely planted gorge of Patsos,
During Minoan times an unknown deity was worshipped.  In post-Minoan times Kraneos Hermes was worshipped, as a votive inscription shows that was found there dating back to the Ιο century B.C.
The evocative environment, the isolation as well as the picturesque landscape made the inhabitants of the surrounding villages change the religious use of the cave. So, in the location Hermes was worshipped and after some formative interventions St Antony is honored since the 16th century. It is also a major pilgrimage under the name of the cave of St Antony.

Source of publication 20th issue In-On

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