Monastery of Panagia Kardiotissa

On the road connecting the province of Pediada and Lasithi Plateau stands the – still active today – nunnery of the Virgin ‘Panagia Kera Kardiotissa’. This monastery is of high artistic and historical significance, and it has given its name to the two nearest villages of Upper and Lower Kera.

The earliest reference to the monastery is made in a document of 1333, a period during which it was a fief of the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople. It has also been argued (Stergios Spanakis) that the establishment of the monastery is linked with the miraculous icon of Our Lady, which is now kept in the church of San Alfonso in Esquilino, Rome. The icon of our Lady Kardiotissa has been associated with miraculous properties, reference to which was already made in 1415 by Chr. Buondelmondi. According to tradition, it has been moved or stolen many times, but each time it returned on its own. In the period of Venetian domination, the icon was stolen by a merchant and moved to Rome. In 1735 it was replaced by another icon, of a different iconographic type, which is nowadays regarded as equally miraculous. In 1720 the monastery was turned into a stavropegic one, following an initiative of the Magganaris family, who restored it. In 1866 and 1867 it was a Cretan rebel base. 
The church is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin. The current architecture of the church is the result of four construction phases. Originally it was constructed as a single-nave church with a pointed barrel vault without supporting arches. This area of the church was later used as sanctuary after an extension. Later, two narthexes were added on the west of the church, and on the north an even smaller single-room vaulted chapel. The monument is adorned with frescoes on all its internal surfaces. The ones in the original church date back to the first decade of the 14th century. The rest of the frescoes in the areas annexed to the original church date back to the second half of the 14th century.


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