Holy Metropolis of Gortyna and Arcadia
The Metropolis of Gortyna and Arkadia with its seat at Moires occupies the southwest part of the county of Heraklion. Its territory coincides to a great extent with that of the ancient metropolis of Gortyna whose seat was the homonymous city that was the political and religious centre of Crete from the first Christian years since, apart from being the seat of the Metropolis of Crete, it was also the civil capital of the island. The history of the metropolis of Gortyna and Arkadia is connected inextricably with the missionary activity of the Apostles Paul and Titos. The first contact of the Apostle Paul with the area in AD 59/60 defined the Christian history of Crete when, while he was being led to Rome for trial, the ship moored at “some place called Fair Havens [Kaloi Limenes] which was close to the town of Lasaia.” (Holy Scripture: NT, Acts, 27.8). Today, a small cavernous cavity in the rock, as a pilgrimage site, and a newly-built church on top of an early Christian basilica, dedicated to the Apostle Paul, are reminiscent of his passage through the coastal area of Kaloi Limenes. Subsequently, in AD 63, during his fourth apostolic mission, the Apostle Paul commissioned the organisation of the Church of Crete to his disciple, the Apostle Titos. Titos, with his seat at Gortyna, ordained the first bishops in the various cities of the island: “The reason I left you in Crete was so that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint priests [lit. elders] in every town as I directed you” (Holy Scripture, NT: Epistle to Titus, 1.5). Apostle Tite consecrated the first Bishops in varied cities of the island while his successors in Gortyna beyond the apostolical years, having the honour of Primus inter Paribus among the other Bishops of the island and were presiding in the Local Synods. Predominant successors of Apostle Tite in the Metropolis of Gortyna were St. Philip, Dioscoros, Cresces, the martyr Cyrillus, the martyr Peter the Young and St. Paul, who had done the translation of the relics of the Ten Saints, who they had been tortured in the reign of Decius in 250 in Gortyna. The decrees of the First Ecumenical Synod, recognize and establish the metropolitan rights of the Bishop of Gortyna within the Synod of the Bishops of the island. Throughout the First Byzantine era (330-824/8), the Sacred Eparchial Synod of Crete had its See in the Metropolis of Gortyna. During the First Byzantine period, great Hierarchs had held the throne, like the thaumaturgies St. Myron and St. Eumenios and others with incomparable, pastoral, hierapostolical, antiheretical and theological writings, as St. Ikonios, Martyrios, Theodoros, Basil and Elias, who participated in the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Penthecte and Seventh Ecumenical Synods. The prelation of St. Andrew the Hymnographer, during the first half of the 8th century, was of great significance for the hole island. The blooming of the Church of Crete was interrupted by the Arabic Conquest of 824. The latest research in ecclesiastical history lists 27 names of Bishops of Gortyna and Archbishops of Crete, from Apostle Tite to St Eutychios. During the Arabic Conquest the local church remained without Bishops and the people were suffering a lot due to inhumane slavery and cruel islamization. During that period (824-961) two Metropolitans of Crete with the name Basil are being mentioned who were forced to live away from the island. The Arabs destroyed Gortyna and transferred the political centre of Crete to the north, to the city of Heraklion, that was an episcopal See, and they fortified the city with a deep trench which gave the name Chandax to the city. With the liberation of Crete in 961 from the Great and pious Emperor Nicephoros Focas, the Church of Crete was reorganized as a Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate while the Episcopal Sees were reconstituted. The chair of the Metropolis was transferred to Chandax, and the region of the old Metropolis, in Gortyna, continued to be a part of the Metropolis of Crete. St John the Ksenos, from the village of Siva in Messara of Crete, and St Nikon the Metanoite worked hierapostolically, during the same period after the liberation of 961, for the re-evangelisation of the Cretan people. Many names of Metropolitan of Crete are saved, among whom the exemplar scholar, qualified writer and canonologist Elias. In 1204 Crete was seized by the Venetians who expelled the Orthodox Bishops, they established Latin Bishops, they exercised immensurable pressure, like torture and proselytism. The consecration of the deacons and the presveterians of the Orthodox Church had to take place out of Crete. That period and under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, great ecclesiastical men worked for the support of Orthodoxy, such as the Metropolitan of Philadelphia Gabriel Seviros, Anthimos of Athens and President of Crete (1340-1366) and the Joseph Bryennius, a pious confessor and monk. During the Venetian Occupation the orthodox monasteries flourished, and they maintained Orthodox spirituality and contributed to the renaissance of the letters and arts. Great orthodox monasteries within the borders of the modern Metropolis of Gortyna and Arcadia which flourished during that period were: the monasteries of Balsamoneron, Brontision, Cardiotissa, Odigitria, Apezanes, «Lord-mercy», (the nowadays village Kapetaniana), Three Hierarchs in mount Kophinas, and a plethora of ascetic settlements in Asterousia mountains. Holy monks lived during that period, such as the hermit Arsenios, who introduced St. Gregory the Sinait to the Noetic Prayer and through whom was spread to Athos. At the same time, we have scholars, as Joseph Filagris. In 1669 the Ottomans seized the whole of Crete expelling the Venetians. The Church of Crete was reorganized as an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the reconstitution of the Sacred Metropolis of Crete and most of the Bishoprics. Heraklion continued to be the See of the Metropolitan of Crete and of the Sacred Eparchial Synod of Crete, even though the conquerors raised many obstacles to its proper functioning. Only in the second half of the 19th century it managed to function more freely. The Metropolitan of Crete participated in the Sacred and Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and was elected by that Synod. With his recommendation the remaining Bishops of Crete were elected. The monasteries that had not been destroyed by the conquerors, continued to function either as a Stavropigion or as an Episcopical, giving valuable services to the conservation of the Orthodox faith and the Romanity self-consciousness. They were many Newmartyrs during that same period. With the liberation from the Ottomans in 1900 and the formal recognition of the autonomous Cretan State, the Orthodox Church of Crete was reorganized maintaining firmly its canonical and administrative subordination to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. With the Constitution Law 276/1900 the Bishopric of Arcadia was reconstituted to a larger Eparchy that included the greater part of the ancient Metropolis of Gortyna having its See in the village of Agioi Deka (Ten Saints). Basil (Markakis), (1902-1940) afterwards Metropolitan of Crete, was enthroned as Bishop of Arcadia. He was succeeded by Eugenios (Psalidakis), (1946-1950) who transferred the See from Agioi Deka (Ten Saints) to Moires, who eventually was elected Metropolitan, and later Archbishop, of Crete. Eugenios was succeeded by Timotheos (Papoutsakis), (1956-1978) as Bishop of Arcadia and later Metropolitan of Gortyna and Arcadia, while eventually was elected as Archbishop of Crete. Timotheos was succeeded as Metropolitan of Gortyna and Arcadia by Cyrillus (Kypriotakis), (1980-2005). With the latest and still valid Charter of the Orthodox Church of Crete (Law 4149/1961) the Bishopric of Arcadia was named Bishopric of Gortyna and Arcadia. In 1962, was raised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a Metropolis. From the year 2005, the Metropolitan of Gortyna and Arcadia, is Makarios (Douloufakis). Nowadays, the Sacred Metropolis has 6 Monasteries, 108 parishes and 124 clerics.