Between Makrigialos and Goudouras, carved on the rocks next to the exit to Pervolakia Gorge, the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Kapsas is gazing out the Libyan Sea and Koufonissi Island since the mid-15th century.
Other sources indicate that it may have been established much earlier in the 13th century.
The only fact we know for certain is that the monastery included a small cave church and a few cells.
But in 1841 Iosif Vitsentzos or Gerontoyiannis move into here and he was destined to restore the monastery, add new cells and an additional aisle in the church and make it famous throughout Crete – and beyond. He was a rather controversial figure and not exactly virtuous, but after his daughter’s death, changed his life course and came to the monastery to become a monk. Crowds of pilgrims flocked in order to see the miracle maker monk (it is said that among others he saw visions, could cure diseases and walked on the sea to Koufonissi). Pilgrims’ contributions were used by Gerontoyiannis to develop the monastery. Iosif Gerontoyiannis’ work was continued by his grandson who added more cells, cultivated the land and brought water to the monastery.
During the years of Occupation, Kapsa Monastery was a resistance centre, and Greeks and British came to it before being taken to Egypt by submarines. Consequently, the Germans forced the monastery abbot Hilarion Syntychakis along with other monks to abandon the monastery.
Kapsa Monastery is dedicated to Saint John Baptist and celebrates its feast-day on 29 August, and thousands of pilgrims are flocking to the monastery. Besides the exceptional view, the guest should take a moment to admire the carved wooden icon screen that was made by Chatziminas in 1869 and painted by Antonis Alexandridis, the sea pebble mosaic at the temple floor and the cave where Iosif Gerontoyiannis lived, that is located just 100 metres from the monastery.
It should be noted that the monastery visiting hours as well as the dress code are rather strict and as it is clearly marked at the entrance: “Women in men’s attire are prohibited”.