The Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Chrysopigi lies a short distance from the town of Chania on the route to Suda harbour. It was founded in the middle of the 16th century in the last period of Venetian rule in Crete. The Monastery is dedicated to the our Lady of the Life-Giving Spring, who is known popularly as ‘Chrysopigi’, the Golden Fountain, because as a fount of gold she bestows abundant gifts of grace on those who invoke her in faith.
The founder of the Monastery was a physician and philosopher by the name of Ioannis Chartophylax, a prominent citizen of the town of Chania, who founded the Monastery in the middle of the 16th century. During the period of Venetian rule the Monastery of Chrysopigi developed into an important spiritual centre for Chania with numerous monks and a rich library.
In 1654, during the period of Ottoman rule, the Monastery became a Patriarchal Stavropegic establishment and continued to be a source of spiritual nourishment and national self-consciousness in difficult times. It suffered greatly at Ottoman hands, sharing the fate of the rest of Crete. In 1821, on the outbreak of the Greek Revolution, it was destroyed and abandoned. In the years following 1848, however, the Monastery was renovated and rejuvenated with the advent of new monks. During the Second World War the Monastery was commandeered for use as their Administrative Headquarters by the occupying German forces. The monks were forced to leave, grievous damage was caused to the buildings and the architectural structure was seriously compromised. There followed a period of what appeared to be terminal decline. In 1976 the Monastery of Chrysopigi was transformed into a coenobitic community of sisters. The new community restored the Monastery from its foundations, while at the same time pursuing the work of renewal in a spiritual and social dimension. With deep respect for the centuries-long history of the Monastery, the building complex was restored in such a way as to become an archaeological monument which through its architectural characteristics reflects the historical trajectory of the island. At the same time, the treasures which survived in the Monastery are conserved and preserved in the Ecclesiastical and the Folk Museum.
The central nave of the Monastery Church (the Katholikon) is dedicated to our Lady of the Life-Giving Spring and there are side chapels dedicated to St John the Theologian and St Catherine of Sinai. On the north side of the courtyard there is a chapel of St Charalampos and on the eastern side there are chapels of St John the Hut-dweller and St Arsenios of Cappadocia. The sisters of the community ply the traditional monastic crafts: icon-painting and also the fresco painting of Churches, ecclesiastical embroidery, stone carving, book publishing, the design and printing of antimensia, book-binding, bee-keeping, candle-making, and the production of incense and of hand-made soap. They also cultivate the Monastery lands using organic farming methods. These arts and crafts, enriched in the life of the community through prayer and asceticism, reveal the sacredness of the world and of human life as understood and experienced in the Orthodox tradition.
Organic farming methods are part of a more general concern for the protection of the environment on the part of the Monastery. This flows from the Church’s respect for the Creator of the world and for humanity. When action for the protection of the environment is inspired by the Orthodox tradition it does not simply aim for the protection of health and well-being; it aims to preserve man’s integrity as a psycho-somatic being and leads from the corrosive effects of over-consumption to an awareness of the meaning of life and an assumption of personal responsibility for the salvation and sanctification of the world. The activities of the Monastery in this regard coincide with the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the protection of the environment, expressed in an official way for the first time in 1989 with the establishment of the 1st September as a day of prayer for the natural environment. This continues to the present day with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
All the monastic lands, some 75 acres, are under organic cultivation, with olive trees, mandarin and orange trees, and fig and avocado trees, as well as vegetable gardens. At all stages of cultivation, whether of the trees, the gardens or the flowers, organic compost is used as fertilizer and diseases are treated with organic antidotes and beneficial insects while weeds are dealt with by mechanical means. The organic produce of the Monastery lands provides food for the community and for visitors. Olive oil which is produced in larger quantities is placed on the market in appropriate packaging. The Monastery also ensures an ecological treatment of waste. The monastic community seeks to raise ecological consciousness through environmental education programmes aimed at school children of all ages and at students, as well as at youth-camp organizers and other groups of young people. These programmes do not only offer information, but also provide the opportunity for active participation through nature walks, the release of birds into the wild and tree-planting.
The Chysopigi community has restored the old monastic dependency of St Kyriaki which lies 12 kilometers from Chania. This area has become a conservation precinct with dense vegetation, a deep ravine through which a winter torrent passes, and many cave chapels which are accessed via specially formed footpaths. In addition to the restoration of the old monastic buildings, a new stone-built monastery has been erected on a rocky prominence. These buildings all use renewable sources of energy. The wider St Kyriaki region has thus been formed into a unified monastic complex in which built and unbuilt areas exist in balance, highlighting and protecting the natural environment.
Following in a centuries-old history and tradition, the mystery of the monastic life is lived out today in the monastery of Chrysopigi through worship and ascetic practice. Centred always on liturgical life, in which many people especially the young come to participate, the monastic tradition is continued with the cultivation of traditional arts and at the same time a spiritual opening to the wider community is brought about. The present-day community with its many sisters receives and embraces in love all people, seeking to understand their deeper psychological needs and to respond to contemporary existential anxieties.
On Saturday and Sunday and on all Great Feasts the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and the central gate of the Monastery is open for pilgrims.