Roman tombs on Gra Mantra

Agios Thomas is a picturesque mountain village in Crete, Greece, known for its unique rock-cut architecture, including Minoan wine presses, Roman tombs, and cave churches. The village is surrounded by impressive rock formations, natural caves, Byzantine churches, and lush greenery, creating a one-of-a-kind landscape in Crete.

South of the village church, a short path leads from the bust of the local hero Logios (Dimitrios Varouchas) to Gra Mantra, one of Crete’s most impressive burial monuments. Gra Mantra features numerous towering boulders with a path winding through them. Many of these rocks contain well-preserved Roman tombs that are a sight to behold. One boulder has tilted over time, causing its three tombs to slant. There are an estimated 30 tombs in the wider Agios Thomas area.

On the way to the abandoned settlement of Ardachtia, there is a rock covered in ivy and the carved chapel of Kera Spiliotissa. Inside a recess in the rock, 15 meters from the chapel, archaeologists discovered a Greco-Roman inscription in 1910, which is still visible today. The inscription confirms that a sanctuary dedicated to Larki Artemis, Demeter, and Kore, deities of the underworld, once existed at the site of the church. Locals in Agios Thomas mention a chasm within the church, known as the “Stoa of Hades,” now covered with cement. All this evidence suggests the presence of a cult dedicated to chthonic deities, deities of the underworld, in Agios Thomas. Even today, villagers throw the clothes of deceased loved ones into an underground river as a symbolic gesture for the afterlife.

Agios Thomas is a village and the seat of the community of the same name in the Gortyna Municipality of the Heraklion Regional Unit. It has a population of 665 according to the 2011 census. The village is abundant in water and boasts numerous orchards with fruits and vegetables. The geological composition of the area, with its steep, high cliffs, gives the landscape a distinctive appearance.

Construction Period:

  • Roman Era

Location:

  • Next to the village of Agios Thomas in Heraklion, Crete.

Dimensions:

  • There are an estimated 30 tombs in the wider Agios Thomas area.

Historical Significance:

  • The tombs served as burial sites during the Roman era.
  • The presence of a Greco-Roman inscription suggests the existence of a sanctuary dedicated to Larki Artemis, Demeter, and Kore.

Current Status:

  • The tombs are well-preserved and open to visitors.

References

Cretan Beaches

Wikipedia

 

Roman period
Access
Paved Road

Inside Agios Thomas settlement.

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