The Arkadi Monastery and the Ancient Museum of Eleftherna are two of Rethymnon’s top tourist sights. You can plan a great day trip to see them both within a day.
Rethymnon Day Trip
The Arkadi Monastery and the Ancient Museum of Eleftherna are two of our favorite sights. We recommend them to our guests who love learning about ancient culture and significant historic moments. Since they are within close range to each other, about half-hour drive, seeing both places makes for a perfect day trip in Rethymnon.
Visit the Arkadi Monastery
Owning a deep emotional history for Greece and impressive architecture, Arkadi is a monastery unlike any other.
The Arkadi Monastery stands on a plateau 23 kilometers southeast of Rethymnon’s city center. It was built by an Arkadian monk in the 12th century. However, others claim that it was named after a 5th-century Byzantine emperor by the name of Arkadius.
No matter who it was named after, the architecture of the terracotta shaded structures are impressive to behold for the first time. It is Renaissance architecture at its best, hailing from Venetian influences.
On your visit you may even see the few humble monks who live on the historic grounds today. Before you go, you should know about the Arkadi Monastery’s revolutionary role.
A Revolutionary Role: Arkadi Monastery
The monastery’s revolutionary role is nothing less than dramatic. It was the year 1866 and the Turks had been ruling the island for two centuries. More than 900 Greeks, the majority were women and children, were hiding inside the monastery from attacking Turkish soldiers. They were cornered, on the cusp of surrendering. However, instead of surrendering, they all agreed on another path. A monk room filled with gunpowder which created a deadly explosion, killing almost everyone in the monastery and many of the Turkish soldiers.
This desperate act for them to remain free and not fall into enemy hands was a cry heard around the world. What happened on that day in 1866 symbolized the brave audacity of the Cretan people. That’s why the Arkadi Monastery is special to the Greeks today on so many levels.
Arkadi Monastery: What to See
Church of the Metamorphosis
The first sight that will grab your attention, once you pass the large fortress like doors, is a beautiful church. This church is dedicated to Metamorphosis of Savior and Agios Konsatntinos and Agia Eleni.
Museum of the Arkadi Monastery
This fantastic little museum has an excellent collection of post-Byzantine icons, religious items dating back to 16th century, and artifacts from several revolutions.
Memorial of 1866
Outside of the monastery, there is a memorial structure dedicated to the Cretans who died in the name of freedom on the November 8, 1866.
Stop in the small souvenir shop featuring handmade items and replicas of beautiful Byzantine icons.
For more about the Arkadi Museum, visit: www.imra.gr
Next Stop: Rethymnon Day Trip – The Museum of Ancient Eleftherna
After your visit to the Arkadi Monastery take time to see one of the most acclaimed museums in Crete. The findings of ancient Eleftherna, once a thriving and fascinating city, are now housed in the beautiful and modern Museum of Ancient Eleftherna.
The grounds, which are set in the mountains outside of Rethymon, have sweeping views of the region. It is first archaeological site museum in Crete. It’s layout and concept is similar to the fantastic museums built in Olympia, Delphi and Vergina.
Walk through the museum to see interesting exhibitions about life as it was in the region, accompanied by well-done audiovisuals to help explain the significance of the civilization at the time.
One of the most significant exhibits is the Eleftherna Kore (Maiden) and the, a limestone Cretan sculpture that is the “twin” of another sculpture known as the Lady of Auxerre which is on permanent exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. The separation of this twin pieces of art from ancient history is a story in itself.
At the Museum of Ancient Eleftherna, there is much more to see. The displays are educational and interesting all at once. Most of what you will find was unearthed by archaeologists who still continue their excavations.
For more about the museum, take a peek at this well-done trailer that captures the essence of what you can discover.
Rethymnon Day Trip: Two Sights
These two interesting sights are possible in one day, an exciting Rethymnon day trip. Have you visited either? Would you like to?