Chapel on the hill

chapel on the hill .jpg

The land falls away to my right, rolling and tumbling downwards into the Gulf of Mirabello. As I look back I see a blue ketch at anchor off the luxury hotels to the south. Still further lies the headland announcing the entrance to the harbour of Agios Nikolaos. All around goat bells jingle, the sound the only betrayal to their well-camouflaged presence on the scrubby hills.
Near the summit a path leads to a small chapel flying the yellow and black banner of the Orthodox church alongside the Greek flag. The twin-headed eagle crowned with a mitre, clutching an orb and sword in its talons flaps in the hot breeze that caresses the stone courtyard. A battered motorbike stands outside the door. I look through the window and see an elderly man busying himself with housekeeping duties.
This is the chapel of Agios Loukas, which was rebuilt between 1996 and 2002 on the site of the ruins of a 13th-century church of the same name. Until then, it had been used to pen sheep and goats. To the east I glimpse the island of Kolokithia lying offshore. I can orientate it accurately as, like most Greek Orthodox churches, Agios Loukas is build along an east west line, with the church door facing west so as the congregation enters they move towards the enlightenment of the east. This is worth remembering as it is a good way of navigating if you get lost, as a chapel or church is never far away on Crete.

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