Toplou Monastery in Crete, Greece

Imposing fortress and living monastic history - this is how the monastery of Toplou in eastern Crete presents itself. In addition, one of the most important Greek Orthodox art treasures can be admired here and the finest olive oil can be purchased.

The historic Toplou Monastery was founded in the 14th century and destroyed and rebuilt several times during its existence. During the Second World War, when Crete was occupied by the Germans, the monastery was the secret base of a British radio installation. Today it has been perfectly renovated and is considered a popular sight in Crete.


PICTURES: Toplou Monastery on Crete

Photo gallery: Toplou Monastery on Crete

Visit to Toplou Monastery

The monastery of Toplou in Crete, Greece, which covers an area of around 800 square meters, was built in a very fortified manner and is somewhat reminiscent of a medieval castle - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Toplou Monastery is located in the north-east of Crete about 20 kilometres from Sitia and, together with Cape Sidero, forms the most north-eastern point of the island.
You should plan 1 to 1.5 hours for a visit to the very professionally run Toplou Monastery. Photography is not allowed inside the monastery.

Walls and monastery church

To protect it from pirates and against the Turks, the 800 square metre monastery was built very fortified and is somewhat reminiscent of a medieval castle. To the west of the entrance is the imposing Renaissance bell tower. It belongs to the two-nave monastery church, which is dedicated to St. Mother of God and St. John.

Monk cells

The monks' cells around the church were built three storeys high for security reasons, so that their inhabitants could escape unwanted intruders more easily. At the second gate into the courtyard, you can also see the murder hole from which the monks poured boiling oil or liquid lead on attackers.


The windmill in the outer courtyard of Toplou Monastery in Crete, Greece, dates back to the time when the monks of the monastery were completely self-sufficient - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The windmill in the outer courtyard of the monastery dates back to the time when the monks of the monastery were completely self-sufficient. It, too, is several centuries old and has been lavishly restored.

One of the best icon museums in Greece

The most recent frescoes at Toplou Monastery in Crete, Greece, were painted in the 1990s and can be visited by appointment with the abbot - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The Museum of Sacred Images is one of the highlights of Toplou Monastery. It houses one of the most important works of art of the Greek Orthodox Church.

The gigantic painting "Megas ei Kyrie" ("Almighty are you, Lord"), was created in 1770 by Joannis Kornaros and consists of 4 central and 57 secondary units with hundreds of acting persons. The famous fresco painter was only 25 years old at the time. Many pilgrims and art lovers come to Toplou Monastery, especially at Easter, to marvel at this great icon.


In addition to the historical icons, there are also more recent frescoes to see, which were painted in a separate room in the 1980s and 1990s by order of the abbot at the time. The murals are by the artist Manolis Betinakis, who has a walking disability, and depict the Acts of the Apostles in bold colours. In contrast to the Icon Museum, the refectory with the frescoes may only be visited by prior arrangement with the abbot.

Olive oil from Toplou Monastery

Thanks to numerous donations in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Toplou monastery is one of the largest landowners in eastern Crete and calls numerous olive plantations its own. The famous palm beach of Vai, one of the few palm beaches in Europe, is also part of the Toplou grounds.

The very cosmopolitan abbot Father Philotheos still knows perfectly how to turn this property into profit, because the sustainably and organically produced olive oil from Toplou Monastery is among the best (and most expensive) in the region.

A souvenir from Toplou Monastery is of course a bottle of the high quality olive oil, available in the monastery shop. The wine cellars of the monastery can also be visited and their products tasted.

Tip: Even those who do not want to import the olive oil from the Toplou monastery themselves do not have to do without it. "Kloster Toplou" is an olive oil brand that can also be found in the supermarkets and health food shops of Central Europe, even at the same price. Bought locally, however, the taste of a holiday on Crete still resonates...