In this article I want to comment one of the photos of the gallery and tell the story behind it. It’s “Arkadi Monastery” or “Moni Arkadi”.
The picture was shot in July 2008, during a trip in the beautiful Greece and it depicts a view of the 16th century’s church, “guarded” by an old woman, surely a widow (judging from the black dress) who bring with her the signs of a long and hard life: the amputated arm make me think about a tragic event. I wanted to take that woman as an icon of the fatal events that took place in this monastery/fortress during the second half of 1800: a sort of last guardian of Cretan resistance.
To understand its meaning we have to go back in time, in the period in which Crete was invaded by Ottoman Empire. The Empire’s campaign of conquest led to the control of nearly the entire island, except of Iraklio, Gramvousa and Spinalonga. After the seize of Rethymno, the Turkish headed towards east, killing and marauding up to Moni Arkadi. There an event of crucial importance took place: an army of about 15’000 turkish, deployed on the plateau of the Ida mountainside, equipped with cannons and cavalry, sieged the walls of the Monastery. Thanks to the mighty thick walls and the tenacity of Cretans, the Empire’s army took a day and a half to breach, suffering heavy losses also after striking down the main gate. After running out of ammunitions, the Cretans barricaded inside the powder room and the ones next to it, waiting for the end. In this last hopeless moment the Cretans, guided by Ioannis Dimakopoulos and hegumen Gabriel Marinakis, waited for the entering of the Turkish to set the barrels of powder on fire and blow up together with the invaders. With this extreme act they sacrified themselves to prevent the Turkish to conquer the Monastery and capture and massacre them. That last desperate form of defense against the empire led to the instant death of about everyone of the thousand Cretan, women and children included, and about one thousand and five hundred Turkish. It is the biggest mass suicide of the history.
The 1866 November 9th is remembered for the courage and the patriotism of the Cretans, that triggered the liberation process of Crete: the foreign forces (among which also Italy, Serbia and Hungary) actively supported Crete to regain freedom. Giuseppe Garibaldi himself praised the patriotism of the Cretans and numerous Garibaldian went to Crete to fight alongside them. The occur of these events, the importance and tragicalness of brave men’s deeds, makes me think that the little old woman left guarding the Monastery, could represent something important that can’t be forgotten; she embodies the spirit of the Cretans and the warning for the present generation to not commit again the mistakes of our ancestors.
For this and other thousands reasons, Crete and the entire Greece stays in my heart; I hope to go again in that fascinating and beautiful places in the future, to discover the history and glimpse the spirit also through the people.