The Holy Monastery of Arkadi

The Uprising and the Holocaust of the Arkadi Monastery - November 1866


On the morning of 8 November, an army of 15,000 Ottomans and 30 cannons, directed by Suleyman, arrived on the hills of the monastery while Mustafa Pasha waited in the Messi. Suleyman, positioned on the hill of Kore. To the north of the monastery sent a last request for surrender. He received only gunfire in response. The assault was begun by the Ottomans. Their primary objective was the main door of the monastery on the western face. The battle lasted all day without the Ottomans infiltrating the building. The asseiged had barricaded the door and, from the beginning, taking it would be difficult. The Cretans were relatively protected by the walls of the monastery, while the Ottomans, vulnerable to the insurgents' gunfire, suffered numerous losses. Seven Cretans took their position within the windmill of the monastery. This building was quickly captured by the Ottomans, who set it on fire, killing the Cretan warriors inside. The battle stopped with nightfall. 

The Ottomans received two heavy cannons from Rethymno, one which was called Koutsahila. They placed them in the stables. On the side of the insurgents, a war council decided to ask for help from Panos Koronaios and other Cretan leaders in Amari. Two Cretans left by way of the windows by ropes and, disguised as Turks, crossed the Ottoman lines. The messengers returned later in the night with the news that it was now impossible for reinforcements to arrive in time because all of the access roads had been blocked by the Ottomans. Combat began again in the evening of November 9. The cannons destroyed the doors and the Turks made it into the building, where they suffered more serious losses. At the same time, the Cretans were running out of ammunition and many among them were forced to battle with only bayonets or other sharp objects. The Turks had the advantage.

The Abbott Gabriel gathering the besieged near the powder magazine. The women and children inside the monastery were hiding in the powder room. The last Cretan fighters were finally defeated and hid within the monastery. Thirty-six insurgents found refuge in the refectory, near the munitions. Discovered by the Ottomans, who forced the door, they were massacred. In the powder room, where the majority of the women and children hid, Konstantinos Giaboudakis gathered the people hiding in the neighbouring rooms together. When the Turks arrived at the door of the powder room, Giaboudakis set the barrels of powder on fire and the resulting explosion resulted in numerous Turkish deaths. In another room of the monastery holding an equal number of powder barrels, insurgents made the same gesture. But the powder was humid and only exploded partially, so it only destroyed part of the northwest wall of the room.

Of the 964 people present at the start of the assault, 846 were killed in combat or at the moment of the explosion. 114 men and women were captured, but three or four managed to escape, including one of the messengers who had gone for reinforcements. The hegumen Gabriel was among the victims. Tradition holds that he was among those killed by the explosion of the barrels of powder, but it is more likely that he was killed on the first day of combat. Turkish losses were estimated at 1500. Their bodies were buried without memorials and some were thrown in the neighboring gorges. 

The remains of numerous Cretan Christians were collected and placed in the windmill, which was made into a reliquary in homage to the defenders of Arkadi. Among the Ottoman troops, a group of Coptic Egyptians were found on the hills outside the monastery. These Christians had refused to kill other Christians. They were executed by the Ottoman troops, and their ammunition cases left behind. 14 survivors were taken prisoner and transported to Rethymno where they were subjected to numerous humiliations from the officers responsible for their transport, but also by the Muslim population who arrived to throw stones and insults when they entered the city. The women and children were imprisoned for a week in the church of the Presentation of the Virgin. The men were imprisoned for a year in difficult conditions. The Russian consulate had to intervene to require Mustafa Pasha to keep basic hygienic conditions and provide clothing to the prisoners. After one year, the prisoners were released.

Source: Wikipedia 

This powerful and tragic testament to freedom and the courage of the Cretan People is commemorated by Cretans all over the world every year in November.

It is after this heroic struggle that our Association take its name.

The Battle at Arkadi Monastery November 8th and 9th 1866

The Battle at Arkadi Monastery November 8th and 9th 1866