Agios Antonios in Veni hill

Agios Antonios monastery in Veni hill, Crete
Agios Antonios monastery in Veni hill, Crete
Agios Antonios monastery in Veni hill, Crete

Agios Antonios at Veni Hill: A Sacred Cave Sanctuary in Amari

Perched atop the verdant Veni Hill in the heart of Amari, Rethymno, lies the cave sanctuary of Agios Antonios (Saint Anthony). This unique religious site, dedicated to the saint of caves and celebrated on January 17th, is a testament to Crete’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage, blending ancient traditions with Christian devotion. This site also holds a significant connection to the nearby Arkadi Monastery, a symbol of Cretan resistance and resilience.

Construction Period:

  • Cave sanctuary: Minoan era (used for worship)
  • Monastery complex: Byzantine era
  • Renovations and additions: Venetian and Ottoman periods


  • Veni Hill, Amari region, Rethymno, Crete.
  • Accessible via a 3.5km dirt road from the village of Voliones.

Historical Significance:

  • Served as a place of worship since the Minoan era, as evidenced by the numerous pottery shards found in the cave.
  • Transformed into a Christian sanctuary during the Byzantine period, becoming a monastery dedicated to Agios Antonios.
  • Served as a refuge and meeting place for Cretan rebels during the Ottoman era, earning the nickname “Pnyka of Crete” (referencing the Pnyx hill in Athens, a site of democratic assembly).
  • Attacked and burned multiple times by the Ottomans due to its association with the resistance movement.
  • Home to the revolutionary Hortatzis family during the Venetian period.
  • Served as a dependency of the Arkadi Monastery, connecting the two sites in a shared history of faith and resistance.

Current Status:

  • The cave sanctuary and surrounding monastery complex are in a state of ruin.
  • The cave itself is divided into two sections and houses a holy spring, bones of past monks, and ancient clay basins that collect water dripping from the ceiling.
  • The outer courtyard features well-preserved monastic cells.
  • The site is currently closed to the public due to safety concerns, with access restricted by a locked door.
  • Restoration efforts are underway, with approved plans for the renovation of the abbot’s quarters and proposals for further restoration of the entire complex.

Additional Notes:

  • The site is a unique blend of ancient and Christian traditions, with the cave’s natural features incorporated into the religious practices.
  • The holy water dripping from the cave’s ceiling is believed to have miraculous properties.
  • The church celebrates the feast day of Agios Antonios on January 17th, attracting numerous pilgrims.
  • The site offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the Psiloritis mountain range.

Agios Antonios at Veni Hill is a fascinating destination for those interested in exploring Crete’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage. Despite its current state of disrepair, the site’s historical significance, unique blend of ancient and Christian traditions, and connection to the revered Arkadi Monastery make it a compelling place to visit.

Four wheel car recommended

Lately, a perimeter fence was built and the gate is locked.

Byzantine period
Ottoman period

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