The Monastery of St. Anthony in Apezanes or Apezana is built on a rocky plateau of Asterousia Mountains, at an altitude of 440m, approximately 63km south of Heraklion. From there starts a short valley that leads from Antiskari village to the beachfront of Platia Peramata.
The monastery can be accessed via a dirt road, either from Plora village or through the road that leads to Kala Limania from Pompia. In both cases, you’ll meet relevant signs to Apezanes.
The monastery serves as a male monastery and is one of the oldest in Crete. It was built according to fortress architecture, although its fort’s character has undergone major changes due to the alterations of the early 20th century. The fort was rectangular and was formed by the external walls of the complex buildings. Also, it was protected by three towers with cannons and, therefore it was called Toplou monastery by the Turks (top = cannon), just as the Toplou Monastery in Sitia.
The central chruch is built located on the edge of the building complex and is a thee – aisled church, built on the site of an older church of St. Anthony. The three aisles are dedicated to St. Anthony (celebr. January 17), the Transfiguration (August 6) and the Three Hierarchs (January 30). The magnificent carved iconostasis of the church reflects the former wealth of the monastery. An icon on it is said to belong to El Greco, the most famous Greek painter of the Renaissance. Moreover, the monastery hosts the icon of St. Anthony, a work of Michael Damaskinos, the second most famous Cretan religious painter, after El Greco.
Beside the church you’ll see the imposing two-story abbey, which was originally built to house the Diocese of Arcadia, but never did. Moreover, around you can see the monks’ cells, the guest house, the refectory and the 25m deep well watering Apezana. The monastery hosts precious religious relics such as old vestments, gold and silver crosses, gospels, icons, relics of saints, etc.
The Abbey was the largest antipope center of Crete during the Venetian period. It served as an important center of literature and theology, but during the Ottoman Era it turned to a humble rural monastery. Around the monastery you will see a small rural settlement which grew along with the monastery. Moreover, it is linked with the founding of Apanosifis Monastery.