The little white church of Aghia Irini, perched near tip of Cape Maleas on its western side, was built on the ruins of an older monastery.
The altar screen is decorated with icons by the monk Nestor Vasalakis. Beside the church are monks’ cells, once part of the monastery complex and now available for the use of visitors, by arrangement.
Seamen and fishermen throughout the ages have known about this church and that of Aghios Georgios a little further south, right on the tip of the cape, both of which have attracted pilgrims from around the world.
Monastery of Saint George at Cape Maleas
This monastery complex, dating from the 13th-14th century, actually consists of three structures. One of them, a little higher than the others, is dedicated to the Forty Holy Martyrs, but is now in ruins. To the north of it is another church that was the monastery’s basilica. On the north side of the altar wall is a door leading into a chapel. The icons on the walls are dark and the eyes of the saints have been effaced, most probably by pirates. Aghios Georgios of Cape Maleas lived here for several years as a hermit.
Hermitage of Venerable Thomas
There are two hermitages bearing Thomas’ name, the first a domed semi-cave. The second is inaccessible – according to locals only a shepherd has managed to reach it. The Venerable Thomas was an important monastic figure – some of his relics are kept at the Filotheos Monastery on Mt. Athos and in the Myrtidiotissa church in Velanidia. Before becoming a hermit, he had been a soldier, originally from a rich family.
From Aghios Nikolaos, take the road south to Aghia Marina and the petrified forest. Continue for a few more kilometres towards the cape on a fairly rough unsurfaced road until the beginning of the D12 hiking route.
It takes at least an hour to reach the monasteries along a narrow path a few metres above the sea. The path is vertiginous in places, but the views over the sea to Kythera, Antikythera and Elafonisos are breathtaking. On a clear day the mountains of western Crete can be seen to the southeast.
It is possible to reach a small landing stage below the monasteries by boat, but only in calm weather.
See also: Hike to Aghia Irini