Moni Hrysoskalitissas Monastery

Monastery in Elafonisi

Four kilometres north of Elafonisi is this beautiful monastery perched on a rock high above the sea. The church is recent, but the monastery is allegedly a thousand years old and may have been built on the site of a Minoan temple. The monastery has created two small rudimentary museums on-site: a folk museum with a selection of weavings and objects from rural life and an ecclesiastical museum with mostly icons and manuscripts.

Hrysoskalitissas means ‘golden staircase’. Some accounts suggest that the topmost one of the 98 steps leading to the monastery was made of gold but could only be seen by the faithful. Another version says that one of the steps was hollow and used to hide the church’s treasury. In any case, during the Turkish occupation the gold, along with much of the monastery’s estate, was used to pay hefty taxes imposed by the Ottoman rulers.