Today I visited the Orthodox Academy as part of my research for Terra Creta. The Academy is part of the Monastery of Gonia. This Monastery was founded in the 9th
century by the Zealots Monks and named after St. George. It was originally built on the ruins of the ancient temple of Artemis Vritromartis, however in the 17th
century one of the monks had a 'vision' and the Monastery was rebuilt on a hill overlooking the sea on the south-east coast of the Rodopos peninsula, where it still stands today. The reason for the relocation, besides a ‘vision’ was that this was a safer location and easier to protect from an attack. Surely, safety was a large consideration because the Monastery was damaged in many battles: from bombardments by the Ottomans in 1645, 1652, 1822, 1841, and 1867; during the Cretan Revolt from 1866-1869; and lastly by the Germans in WWII
. During the Great War, the Monastery became an important center for the resistance against the Nazis. In 1968, the Archdiocese of Crete decided to create a foundation for "the dialogical witnessing and the liturgical diaconia of Orthodoxy in the world that is passing and the world that is coming." The Foundation is dedicated to studying religious texts and hosts students from all over Europe for educational programs. The Orthodox Academy of Crete is located on the same grounds as the Monastery of Gonia and has a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Chania.
When I arrived with Emmanuil (from Terra Creta), we went into the main reception area for the Academy to find Ms. Larizakis, who (of course) was not there. She was the lady who we spoke to on the phone and who agreed to show us the library. However, another lady at the desk was able to find the key and let us in. To get to the library we walked through a large ‘living room’ and out onto a deck with beautiful flowers and vines growing all over the columns of the building. We then went down a narrow set of stairs and to a half hidden door, tucked under the main terrace. This room, seemingly forgotten in the splendor of the rest of the building, was the library. When we entered the room (for it is just one big, but not too big, room) it was hot and stuffy and every surface was covered with a fine layer of dust. Indeed, it looked as if nobody had entered the library in months
. The chamber is square, with book shelves lining every wall from floor to ceiling. There is no reliable system for finding the books other than ‘the religious stuff is here, and the history stuff is that shelf, that wall is novels, and magazines are upstairs’, according to our guide, and the books are in many languages (French, Russian, German, Greek, English). In the center of the room is a large octagonal table, and at an opening in the center of the table sits a lone Greek pot. Black and red, the pot sits underneath a large skylight, which seems to be the only light source. In the back corner there is a narrow stairway leading to an upper lever which contains only old publications and magazines, including the largest collection of National Geographic magazines I have ever seen outside of my Mom’s basement. The Academy possesses every issue between 1959 and 2000, and all of them are in pretty decent shape.
I had come to research the history of the Kolymvari region and its importance to olive oil. However, after Emmanuil left, I spent some time exploring the library and discovering their resources. I found several things of interest, including To Kill a Mockingbird
, The Bone People
, Gun Germs and Steel
, as well as several other classic American novels. They also possessed the complete works of William Shakespeare in Greek
. Considering the volumes were well worn, it seems that Shakespeare is popular here in Greece as well. I also spent some time perusing the older editions of National Geographic. It was fascinating to read about events that I have studied in classes and read about in history books from a ‘present’ point-of-view. For example, there was an article from an 1967 edition that discussed the space program in the United States and expressed doubt that humans would ever walk on the moon (although I know there are some today who still doubt this ever happened) or develop technology sophisticated to travel into deep space. There were also editions about Jane Goodall, the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein, the Cold War and the USSR, and many more. All fascinating. Anyway, back to my project for the day. I scoured all the history books written in English and Greek for a mention of the Kolymvari region. While I was hopeful at first, I ended up empty handed. Most of the resources I found discussed only the greater history of Crete, not the specific region of Kolymvari or the history of olives in the region. After four hours I was forced to admit defeat and head back to Terra Creta with some limited information. After Fotis picked me up, we headed back to Terra Creta headquarters to review the new information and determine where we should look next. I think we will go to the library of the Agronomic Institute next, or the Municipality library.
Despite a lack of success for Terra Creta, I will be returning to the Academy library to conduct my research on the Orthodox Church. While history may be lacking, their sources on the Church history and institution are certainly in abundance!