Approximately 5 kilometers from Aspros Potamos & Natura cottages, between Kalo Nero and Goudouras, perches the impressive monastery of Moni Kapsa, also known as the monastery of John the Baptist. Its full name is the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Kapsa (St John Kapsa) and it’s a dependency of Monastery Toplou near Sitia on the road to Vai. The monastery looks as though it has been carved into the hill and is built like an eagle’s nest high up on steep cliffs at the exit of the wild Pervolakia Gorge with amazing views over the Southern Mediterranean Sea and Koufounissi Island opposite.
he monastery is still inhabited today and visitors can admire the beautiful cavernous church, the floor of which is covered with decorative mosaics showing religious symbols. With stunning views overlooking the Libyan sea and Koufounissi Island, the monastery, believed to have been founded in the 15th century, still attracts many devotees, particularly for the feast of John the Baptist on 29th August. Kapsa Monastery was rumoured in one recent book to be the first stop for Lord Lucan ( a British peer suspected of murder) in his flight from justice.
Then a remote monastery accessible only by the hardiest of travellers in the early 1970s, it was said to be the resting place for three weeks for Lord Lucan. The monastery of Kapsas had been completely isolated until a few years ago as it could not be reached easily by land, but mainly by the sea. It is the easternmost monastic centre of the southern coast of Crete, built on a steep location, clinging to a vertical rock, on the east of the exit of the Pervolakia gorge.
The building complex of the monastery grew gradually with constant additions and modifications from the Byzantine period until the last century. The catholicon is a twin-naved vaulted church, which is built in front of a cave. The very few fragments of Byzantine frescoes that have survived, have been repainted and are not in a good condition on the rocky southeastern side of the church.
However, they prove that the building year of 1861 mentioned in a founding inscription above the entrance to the church is related to a renovation phase of a building that dates from the late Byzantine period.
Historical Abbey of the 15th century collapsed from an earthquake in 1612 and re-constructed with the economic aid of the Venetian. It was destroyed and depopulated by the Turks when they conquest Crete. It was changed under the Patriarch’s jurisdiction in 1704. The whole period of Ottoman domination, in the Abbey, there was a school operating, later.
The main building, 800 Sq.m, is a three-storey building and includes cells, guest rooms, cook rooms, abbey-priory, storage. The catholic is divided into two parts, with the northern declinable dedicated to Virgin Mary and the southern later declinable in Agios Ioannis (St. John) the Theologian. Characteristic is the bell tower of the Abbey, which has anaglyph crowns and crosses with signs, aged around 1558.
The Museum includes the following collections:
– Collection of Cretan icons
– Collection of graven items
- Biological winery
The most important exhibits of the Museum are Virgin Mary the Asbestos-15th century, Christ the Pantocrator-15th century, Agios Ioannis (St. John) the Precursor and scenes of his life-17th century, the Dormition of Virgin Mary-15th century, Virgin Mary the uncontaminated-15th century, Virgin Mary of Passion and Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicolas)-1642, Agios Theodoros (St. Theodore)-1723, the Saint Trinity-17th century, Agios Ignatios and Savvas-17th century, the Agios Athanassios, Cyrille and Agios Ioannis (St. John) the merciful- 17th century.
The abbot of the Monastery, Filotheos Spanoudakis is well known for his commitment for this biological agriculture of the property. He restored and put into value the old vines of the monastery in the nineties. He’s very active in both clerical and economical business and has lead the products of the Toplou Monastery to be sold all over Greece, Europe and further.
The Toplou renowned dry white wine offers a blend of the two indigenous grape varieties, Thrapsathiri and Vilana. The wine has a delicate aroma, a full body balanced acidity, with a long aftertaste. Toplou Chardonnay is grown in a unique microclimate, to produce a pleasant dry white wine with exotic fruit aromas, a rich body and a unique aftertaste making it the best available Chardonnay from Crete. Liatiko Mandilari is the renowned dry red wine.
Wine tasting: Toplou Monastery has a wine tradition that spans over five centuries. Their wine collection is fully organic and there is no use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers or additives. As the largest landowner in the East of Crete they have always been making wine, olive oil and honey for the needs of the church for social and religious purposes.