The cave of Saint Sophia

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Driving along the provincial road leading to Elafonissi and Paleohora, which is located just above the beautiful gorge of Topolia just after the village of Topolia and after passing a small old stone tunnel, you will see the opening of a cave on the right side of the cave. You get upstairs several steps, then you follow a small path. Which leads to the arched, imposing entrance of the cave of Saint Sophia. According to the official data, the cave of Agia Sophia is at an altitude of 285m. And includes a dome 20 m high. And 70 m in diameter. With varying stalactites and stalagmites.

In this location were found various ancient objects, including neolithic shells. Also in the Cave there is a species of spider living only here (Pholcus creticus). The cave presents archaeological and historical interest. P. Faure has typically identified shells of the Neolithic (6,500-3,000 BC), Classical (480-323 BC) and Roman period (31 BC-324 AD), while S. Hood Discovered a clay figurine, dating back to the end of the 4th century. BC, as well as pottery of the Neolithic, Early Minoan (3,000-2,600 BC), Late Minoan III (1,400-1,100 BC), Classical, Hellenistic (323-31 BC) and Roman period.

It took its name from the homonymous chapel, measuring 6 m x 3 m, located to the left of its entrance.

This cave is used for cult purposes and is associated with various legends, such as St. Demetrius’ petal. They claim that the footprint of the horseshoe of the horse of Ag. Dimitriou. Indeed, on a rock there is a dent, whose shape resembles a horse’s horseshoe.

Also with regard to whether the cave continues in other halls, the (ordinary) stories are heard about a narrow opening, where they put an animal and this appeared a mile away.

But two are the most famous legends that haunt the cave.

One of them refers to the last Istanbul fighters who were langiers from Crete and Muhammad, honoring them for this, gave them life and allowed them to take away their weapons and whatever they wanted before returning to their island. They preferred to go to the Church of Hagia Sophia and take a picture with them. After many adventures and hardships, about 80 survived, passing through the Peloponnese, arrived at Gramvousa and passed to Kissamos, where most of them remained. The image they carried with them placed it in a chapel opposite Topolia. And from here the miracles begin. An evening shepherd of the area saw a light leaving the chapel and as if flying, it ended up in a cave that was beyond the village. The next day they went to the cave and saw the image leaning against a stone. Most people felt that someone had to grab the picture from the chapel and hide it in the cave. They take her and return her to the chapel. The same evening, however, they saw the light going on the same path! The next day they went and did not find the image on the stone, but wedged between rocks. They realized her will was to stay there, and she still lives there, they say. They built a small church and gave it the name of Hagia Sophia, hanging this humble chapel with the majestic temple of Justinian! Now why does not anyone see this picture today or even wedged in the rock? Rather he preferred to hide deep inside him.

The other great legend relates to a shocking historical drama. In the Sacrifice of Psaromilli. Psaromeligians, a branch of an aristocratic family, revolutionized the Venetians during the Venetian domination. After the unfortunate end of the revolution, its protagonists hid in cliffs and caves. Among them was the then Bishop of Kissamos Michael Psaromiligos, his brother Captain Psaromiligos and his nephew Dimitrios who was considered the leader of the revolution. They were hunted in the cave of Topolia. There the Despot called his brother and spoke to him. The two brothers agreed that for the good of the country they had to force the young Dimitrios to cut off their heads, hand them over to the Venetians in order to be grateful to continue the revolution. After this agreement between the two brothers, the Bishop called his nephew to the chapel and vowed him to do the one that imposed the patriotic debt.

But when the young man learned that he needed to decapitate his uncle Bishop and his father and go their heads to the Venetians in order to escape, he refused his oath …

But the words and the exorcisms of the Bishop for the freedom of Crete convinced him in the end to keep his harsh promise and to sacrifice his uncle and his father for the freedom of Crete.

(SOURCE: Crete of Legends – Vassilis Charonitis)