Cathedral of Saint Minas
Saint Minas Cathedral in Heraklion City, Crete – Celebrated November 11
Saint Minas Cathedral in Heraklion is one of the largest cathedrals in Greece, having a capacity of 8000 people. It is devoted to Saint Minas who lived from 285 – 309 AD and is the patron saint of Heraklion city.
The construction of the church begun in 1862 and after an interruption during 1866-1883 (Cretan Revolt ), the cathedral was completed in 18th of April 1895. The cathedral was built according to plans by architect Mr Athanasios Moussis, who was also the architect for Saint Titos Church. The beautiful paintings were assigned to Stelios Kartakis who studied Byzantine hagiography, and the artwork was completed in 1978.
During the Battle of Crete, bombs destroyed part of the church. Two of the bombs fell without exploding and today one of them is showcased at the north side of the Cathedral. As per the tradition, Saint Minas protected the church from destruction.
Saint Minas (Greek: Άγιος Μηνάς) is the patron saint and protector of Heraklion, celebrated on November 11th every year. This day is a big celebration of the city and also a bank holiday when it occurs on a week day.
According to tradition, the Easter of 1826, when Christians were in the church (at that time only the small Saint Minas existed) attending the mass, the Ottomans attacked them wanting to kill them. Suddenly, the Ottomans saw before them a young, brave horseman who waved a sword. They were scared and backed away. The Christians believed that the horseman was Saint Minas who was there to protect them and their city.
To the Cathedral’s left, stands the small temple of St. Minas, which is not known when it was built (probably around 1735). The small church bears beautiful ornate wood carvings and icons from the 18th century.
Next to them is found the church of Saint Catherine, operating as a Christian art museum.
If you visit, you should know that parking nearby can be difficult, especially during week days. It is best if visited by feet.
At a glance:
✔Saint Minas Cathedral was completed in 1895.
✔Next to it, the called ‘Small’ Saint Minas was devoted to Saint Minas before the cathedral’s construction.
✔Saint Minas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Menas is the protector Saint of Herarklion City. It is celebrated November 11th.
✔The Architect who undertook Saint Minas construction was Athanasios Moussis, the same architect of Saint Titus Church and the barracks in Eleftherias Square (today housing the Prefecture and Heraklion Courts)
✔It is reported that during the cathedral’s construction, at some point there were no money to pay the workers. Students and Heraklion citizens created a chain from the port to the church in order to transport the construction materials.
✔During the bombing of 1941 (World War II), even though Heraklion was severely damaged, the church was relatively intact. In fact, a misfired bomb still remains in front of the north face of Agios Minas. The bomb was dropped in May 1941.
Some of its reviews
By James E
“A beautiful church, the painted ceilings are lovely.”
By Albányai Mária
“This cathedral is a must see if you are in Heraklion. Beautiful wall and ceiling paintings. The chandeliers in the cathedral very, very nice. Worth a visit, go there, you will not be disappointed.”
Ciaoyoga – UK
This church did not get a mention in the top 10 of Heraklion, but we wandered there for a look. We approached it from the side and thought it was shut as there were metal fences around (early October 2019). It was definitely open. Stain glass windows (modern) and inside it is very ornate. Wooden carved panels, silver and gold paintings. Just lovely. Worth a little walk.”
A sight Of Architectural Beauty and Spiritual Magesty
“The Cathedral of Saint Minas is the most prominent Christian Orthodox church of Heraklion city. It is devoted to St. Minas, the Saint Protector of the city and is located within the center of old Heraklion.
The temple was built between 1862 and 1895 A.D., although a smaller 17th century temple was initially the center of worship in this location, also devoted to Saint Minas, which is still preserved to this day next to the Cathedral (the locals call this church the “Small St. Minas”, in contrast to the scale of the Cathedral).
The grand exterior of the Cathedral shows how the Cretan architecture was influenced by Italian aesthetics during the long occupation of Crete by the Venetians from the 13th to the 17th century.
The interior, however, is decorated with hagiographies( fresco paintings of saints and scenes from the Bible) according to the Orthodox traditions of the Byzantine era. The marble columns holding the central dome, the altarpiece and the Archbishop’s throne are prominent features of the interior, in addition to a glass case containing part of the remain of Saint Minas.
The hagiographies offer an uplifting spiritual aesthetic to the temple and the golden backgrounds of the depicted scenes glimmer pleasantly under the light entering from the windows of the dome. I sat on one of the seats for a few minutes, soaking in the majesty and grace of the place.
Those who visit the Cathedral for religious purposes light a candle as an offering, although this is clearly optional for anyone who wishes to do so.
There is no monetary cost for visiting the Cathedral, and the visit itself does not require a lot of time. Every minute devoted to this visit, though, is certainly worth it.”
- Sources & Extra reading
- Greek: Κα. Λιάνα Σταρίδα «Υπήρχε Μία Πόλη …» Θρησκευτικά μνημεία του Μεγάλου Κάστρου, εκδόσεις Ίτανος, Ηράκλειο 2016 (σελ. 75 – 80)
- Explore Crete
- Herakion.Gr – Portal of Municipality
- Cretazine – What to see
- TripAdvisor Reviews
- Facebook Page with Heraklion Images and info [Άγνωστες γωνιές στο Δήμο Ηρακλείου Κρήτης]