Ekklisia Agios Niklaos, Hersonisos, Crete

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It was with some nervousness that I clicked “buy now” on my first ever package holiday. Would it be nice weather? Would it be a nice hotel? Would I like it and not feel claustrophobic? Turns out packages are great, particularly when you get the surprise of a cute, cute church like this close by!

So, Mystery Church, what secrets do you have to share?

I’ll be honest, I know very little about Byzantine Christianity and probably even less about the Greek Orthodox today. I went to a friend’s orthodox wedding a few years ago – it was great! I had no idea what was going on, there were Many Priests and lots of them and the couple walking in circles! If anything could make me get married …

However, this little church was different. One evening I went down and had a walk around. Using my ‘church senses’ I spotted that the small church appeared to be built at the eastern end of a much larger one, whose ground plan you could still make out.

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Screen capped from Google Maps

The church is built on the rocky outcrop, but you can clearly see it is within a larger rectangle. On the ground, it was totally amazing to see mosaic and carved masonry all around.

Looking later (despite having No Greek, ephrairisto [sp.]), I realised that these were Byzantine floor mosaics and carved stonework. More here and here. Apparently the church we see today is a seventeenth century construction, built on top of an earlier Byzantine church, which in turn was built on top of a Roman fort. The mosaics date to the sixth century. I mean its just extraordinary and right next to a whole load of package holiday resorts!

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From this angle, not only can you see the blue skeletal umbrellas of Star Resort, but you can also see the lower (Byzantine?) walls of the church. The tide comes all the way in an up – the church doors have a warning notice in Greek to keep them shut, lest sea water get in the church. I didn’t dare open the doors (which were heavy and bolted).

There’s so little information about the archaeology that you can see locally, it was a huge surprise to read how much there is to explore – clearly spelled out on the Roman Sites blog. All around the resort are Cretan, Greek, Roman and Byzantine structures waiting to be recognised.

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Next time I’ll get inside.

 

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