The monastery of Saint Panteleimon is located 25km west of Heraklion and 3km south of Fodele, in a wooded area of orange and olive groves. The monastery was built with fortress architecture. Today a part of the walls and the beautiful entrance to the monastery are preserved.
The exact date of establishment of the monastery is unknown. Some believe that it was founded after 1539, when the monks of the seaside monastery of St. Anthony in Pera Galini were attacked by pirates and moved to the mainland. Indeed, the monastery, except Saint Panteleimon, is also dedicated to Saint Anthony. However, it is probable that there was already the monastery of Saint Panteleimon here, otherwise the name of St. Anthony would have prevailed as the patron of the monastery.
The monastery played an important role in the struggle of the Cretans against the Turks. The Turks, in retaliation, looted and destroyed the monastery several times, but it never stopped operating. The monastery houses some icons of the 17th century, like the Second Coming of Michael Damascenos, St. Onourfios and All Saints.
Historical evidence about Katholikon
The central part of the Monastery is called Katholikon and it’s a point of reference as it was the place where all monks gathered during the service. It’s a double section temple, Basilica shaped and its north aisle is dedicated to Aghios Antonios while its south and oldest to Aghios Panteleimonas. It consists of two vaulted rooms connected with two openings, a large one in the center of the temple and a smaller in the sanctuary.
The current version of the Katholikon is a result of three interventions. At first it was the aisle of Aghios Panteleimonas which at its original form reached the west part where the chandelier is. We still don’t know the exact construction date, but it’s more likely by the end of the Byzantine period. It’s got a marvelous woodcut iconostasis from which we can see only the upper part decorated with gold. During the excavation and restoration in 2008 it was obvious that there were no frescoes as the temple had been burned by the Turks in 1866 (the marks are still visible in the sanctuary). A plundered grave from the Venetian period was also revealed, situated in front of the gate of Aghios Panteleimonas iconostasis.
On September 1881, the second aisle is finished, dedicated to Aghios Antonios. According to tradition it started to be built by three monks, Makario, Jeremia and Kosma in memory of their prior Monastery. They were monks of the Monastery of Pera Galinon who survived from Hairentin Barbarosa a well known pirate who destroyed the latter and slaughtered its monks in 1537.
The three monks have been buried in the temple (their grave is situated at the entrance of Aghios Antonios. During the excavation in 2008 their bones were found and are now kept in a wooden case).
In 1861 there was a third intervention by the legendary Abbot Neophito Pedioti who extended and renovated Katholikon and built the bell tower on the west wall.
The carved inscription is still visible above Aghios Antonios door:
O K(T)ITO(Ρ) ΤΗC ΠΑΡΟΥΣΗS
Among the most important sacred relics is part of the hand of Aghios Panteleimonas kept in a silver case. There are also four icons from 17th century works of Michael Damaskinos (the Second Coming, the dance of the Saints, Saint Onoufrios, Saint Gerasimos) as well as “Archangel Michael”, a work of the famous Cretan school.