Platanias, follow motorway 90/E65 12 km west, exit Kolympari/Spilia.
Turn left towards Spilia, after 200 m turn right to Marathokefala.
Straight throuǵh Marathokefala, follow road south along the valley.
All year daily 0-24.
free, donations welcome.
|electric, candles, bring torch
|L=31 m, W=22 m, H=7 m.
Σπήλαιο Αγίου Ιωάννη, Πλατανιάς 730 06.
Spilia Áyios Ioánnis, Platanias 730 06, Crete.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The cave church Σπήλαιο Αγίου Ιωάννη Ερημίτη στη Μαραθοκεφάλα (Cave of St. John the Hermit at Marathokefala) is one of several cave churches dedicated tu Αγίου Ιωάννη Ερημίτη (St. John the Hermit). The only way to keep them apart is by the name of the next village, in this case Marathokefala which is located 400 m to the north. Spilia is actually closer, but there is no road from Spilia, and Spilia itself exists numerous times, as the name simply means cave, and Greece has many caves and many villages named cave. We know its confusing, but there are GPS coordinates above, and that's the only church about which we talk on this oage.
According to local legend, Saint John the Hermit (Agios Ioannis Xenos) had to flee from te Middle East with 98 friends and came to Crete. The Saint was the founder of the rich ascetic tradition of the island. He was first at Harakas cave in Azogires, then lived here in the cave before joining a new hermitage in Katholiko. Splitting a large concretion in the shape of an ox's head with a knife or removing his stick stuck in the rock according to another version, water started miraculously to flow! A receptacle located behind the chapel nowadays collects the holy water dripping from the rock. Believers attribute to this water the gift of healing illnesses and infirmities.
Inside the cave on the right side is a chapel from the 15th century and the foundations of monk cells from the 17th-18th century. Near the chapel is a crack in the rock, which drips water throughout the year. It is called "the holy water of Agios Ioannis" and collected in a small tank for visitors. On the left side of the cave lies the crypt, where Saint John the Hermit hid from the frequent visits of the shepherds and farmers. He was obviously not very sociable. Attached to the crypt is a small room, which was used as a secret school during the Ottoman Era. Nearby the locals found a marble altar and a marble head of a child, which are kept in the museum of the parish of Spilia. It is believed that the cave was used as a sanctuary or temple in pre-Christian times.
The cave church is a real church, not a tourist sight. It is open without restrictions and free, but respect the local traditions and be silent and wear appropriate clothes. There are two important feasts at the cave, and if you do not want to participate, you might avoid the cave at this dates. On 6th and 7th October is the feast of Saint John the Hermit. On December 24, on Christmas Eve, the Nativity of Christ is represented with real animals, and is very famous throughout Greece.