The Antifonitria Monastery of Virgin Mary (Panagia) is located in Miriokefala, a little hilly town 29 kilometers southwest of Rethymnon Town, on the boundary between the Rethymnon and Chania prefectures. This monastery is supposed to have been founded in the 11th century by Saint John Xenos or Hermit, who is also credited with founding several other monasteries around Crete. According to legend, the monastery was founded when Saint John heard a voice calling out from a nearby bush, “Here I am!” I’ve arrived! He discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary under that bush, which was supposed to be miraculous. The monastery was given the name Antifonitria, which means “woman who yells,” as a result of this occurrence.
During that time, the monastery developed, and it was embellished with murals in the 11th and 12th centuries. Saint John is supposed to have carried ecclesiastical equipment and priceless relics from Constantinople to the monastery with the permission of the Emperor and Patriarch, but little has remained to this day. The monastery deteriorated during the Ottoman occupation of Crete, finally ceasing operations in 1900. Only the monastery’s katholikon, consecrated to the Virgin Mary, and some fragments of the walls and monk quarters remain today. This katholikon serves as the village of Miriokefala’s principal church, and it celebrates on September 8th.
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