Information about the place AGIA VARVARA (Municipality) HERAKLIO - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Agia Varvara

  This municipality is located in the centre of the Heraklion prefecture, and according to some, in the centre of Crete. It is surrounded by 8 different municipalities: to the north, Gorgolaini, Tetrachoriou and Temenos; to the east, those of Nikos Kazantzakis and Asteroussia; those of Kofinas and Gortys to the south and finally, to the west, the municipality of Rouva. This municipality includes seven of the former communities: Aghia Varvara, Aghios Thomas, Moulia, Douli, Larani, Megali Vrisi and Prinias. The municipality covers a surface of about 10.000 ha., from Malevizi to Monofatsi and the Kenourio province; it has over 5.000 inhabitants. Geographically, the municipality lies at the foot of the Psiloritis mountain, at 530 m above sea level, and is one of the main thoroughfares leading up the mountain. It forms part of the mountainous landscape of the island.
  The main sources of production are agriculture (olive trees and vineyards) and cattle raising (sheep). Other activities in the region are the following: olive oil production, cheese and dairy production, distillation of "tsikoudia" or "raki", as well as commercial activities and public services.
  Aghia Varvara is the chief town (seat) of the municipality with the same name. It has a population of more than 2.000 inhabitants and is 30 km away from the city of Heraklion, by the road that leads from Heraklion to Aghia Varvara, Moires and Phaistos, one of the main highways crossing the island from north to south.
Municipality Tel.: +3 0894 23741 & 23742
Fax: +3 0894 23743
  Historical Background
  The municipality has a rich archaeological and cultural past. The ancient city of Rizinia was located on a conspicuous height (686 m) near the settlement of Prinias. This height, also known as 'Patela of Prinias', is only accessible from the west.
  The panoramic view extends as far as the island of Dia in the Cretan sea to the north, and to the Paximadi island to the south, in the Lybian sea. It was the Italian School of Archaeology that excavated in 1906-1908 the ruins of ancient Rizinia, a city of importance from Post-Minoan to Hellenistic times (1600 to 67 BC). Its most notable monuments belong to the Classic period of the 7th and 6th centuries BC.
  The location was highly strategic: Rizinia lay half way between Knossos and Gortys, the two largest cities in Crete, one to the north, the other to the south, and from the Patela height, the town commanded a large area. The ruins of an imposing Hellenistic castle have been found (330-70BC), built from stones cut out of more ancient buildings and tombs. Some of the stones bear inscriptions and are incised with different shapes: on one there is a female figure wearing a long chiton, holding a spindle and with a half-filled distaff on the lower part. On another, a warrior, with helmet, shield and lance. These stones come from a burial site belonging to the first Hellenistic period. A great number of sherds, votive clay objects and figurines have been found among the ruins of ancient Rizinia, as well as the remnants of two temples. One of them, to the east of the site, was dedicated to the goddess Rhea and from the charred bones that were excavated, it seems obvious that animal sacrifices were held there. Many sculptures in porous stone were found in and around the temple, and are now in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. Close by, the cemetery was excavated, bringing to light interesting objects found in the tombs.
  According to many archaeologists, the ancient town of Panona was located not far off, where the village of Aghios Thomas now stands. Around the village there are many caves, cisterns and a beautiful wine-press, all cut out of the rock.
  The Sights
  A visit to the municipality of Aghia Varvara is indispensable for those who want to get to know Crete, especially the hinterland. There are many sites of interest for the visitor.
  Archaeological Sites
  Ancient Rizinia and the cemetery at Prinias. Tombs carved out of the rock and the wine-press at Aghios Thomas.
  Natural Sites
  The valley of Prinias, the Perdikokorifi at Prinias, the Acropolis at Rizinia, the unique "forest" of oleanders in Crete, and the drive from Moni Kardiotissa to Aghios Antonios in the Aghios Thomas area.
  The height of Taga with the Aeolian park, between Aghia Varvara and Moulia, and the hill at Anemomilos.
  Churches and Chapels
  The churches of Aghios Ioasaf, Spiliotissa, Kardiotissa, Aghios Antonios in Aghios Thomas.
  Byzantine churches of Profitis Ilias, Aghios Giorgos in Aghia Varvara and Aghios Ioannis in Megali Vrisi, and the old monastery of Aghia Pelagia. The church of Zoodochos Pigi in Ano Moulia, those of Armiri and Aghia Anna in Megali Vrisi, and the church of Aghios Nikolaos in Douli. The municipality of Aghia Varvara has a unique richness in flora and fauna, of great interest and beauty.
  The municipality has good paved roads linking all the villages to each other and making access easy to all the sites.
  There is a bus service from Heraklion to all the villages in the municipality, leaving every half hour from the square Machis Kritis at the Chanioporta in Heraklion.

This text is cited September 2004 from the Interkriti URL below, which contains images.

Agia Varvara

  This unimposing town is the crossroads for various excursions. Agia Varvara 30km southwest of Iraklion, is located at important crossroads to the Mesara Plain and south of the Psiloritis Mountains towards Rethimnon. The excursions from Iraklion towards the important archaeological sites of Mesara go through Agia Varvara. The resorts towns of Matala and Agia Galini that can be used as the basis for excursions in Mesara are to the west of Agia Varvara (Agia Varvara - Agii Deka - Mires - Matala or Agia Varvara - Agii Deka - Mires - Timbaki - Agia Galini).

This text is cited Feb 2003 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains image.

Agios Thomas

  Agios Thomas is 30km southwest of Iraklion on the road Iraklion - Venerato - Agios Thomas. Agios Thomas is believed to be the location of the ancient Greek city Pannona. Several remains have been found in the area. In addition, there are several interesting Byzantine churches nearby. This small village is between Psiloritis and the Dikte Mountains of Lassithi. It separates the Mesara Plain from the north. During the Venetian era it was a large town that the Turks destroyed in 1821 and 1866. Archaeologists discovered ancient Roman tombs, cisterns, and early Greek writing in the area. The area of Agios Thomas was reputed to have had 38 churches in the past.

This text is cited Feb 2003 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains image.

Ano Moulia

  The village of Ano Moulia is 32km south of Iraklion on the Iraklion - Agia Varvara - Ano Moulia - Agii Deka road and has the Byzantine church of Agii Apostoli.


  Prinias is 35km southwest of Iraklion on the Iraklion - Agios Miron - Kato Asites - Prinias road. The area of Prinias contains Minoan and Greek era remains.

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


A town in the interior of Crete, S. of Cnossus, retaining the name of Panon.


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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Prinias (Ancient Rhizenia/Rhittenia)

  A modern village near the site of an ancient city in central Crete. The "patela" is a fiat-topped steep-sided acropolis (686 m) just N of the main watershed and dominating the two main N-S passes across the E foothills of Ida. Accessible only from the W, it had a mainly unfortified perimeter and measures ca. 230 x 560 m. The site has generally been identified with Rhizenia/Rhittenia (see Guarducci), but a plausible case has been made for Apollonia (Faure); either way it was probably normally subject to Gortyn in Classical and Hellenistic times. The excavations date to 1906-8 and since 1969.
  Apart from a few Neolithic finds the earliest traces of occupation are of the latest Minoan period (LM III); evidence of early post-Minoan occupation has recently been increased by discovery at nearby Siderospilia of Proto-Geometric tholos tombs with inhumations and a Geometric cremation cemetery. Also of these periods is an important deposit of votive terracottas and vases found near the E edge of the plateau, including types with antecedents of the end of the Minoan period (female figures with cylindrical skirt and raised arms, sometimes with snakes; tall clay tubes with vertical rows of loop handles). A small enclosure found nearby against the rock formed the sanctuary of this snake-goddess, whose cult seems to last from Subminoan to late archaic times.
  The site's most important remains are of the archaic period. Roughly in the middle of the plateau are the poorly preserved remains, close together, of two 7th c. temples. The more northerly (A: 9.7 x ca. 6 m) has a nearly rectangular elongated cella entered through a single door from a pronaos to the E with a single central square pier in antis. In the center of the cella is a slab-lined rectangular sacrificial pit on hearth, on each side of which stood a single (probably wooden) column on the central longitudinal axis. Many pieces were found of the limestone frieze (originally situated on the facade or at socle level) carved with horsemen in relief, and of two (later?) female statues each seated on a chair on the end of a sculpted architrave, probably from the upper part of the cella door (reconstr. in Iraklion Mus.): major works of Daedalic art. Temple B to the S was built in a similar technique but with dissimilar and less regular plan (ca. 18 x ca. 5.5 m); it had an opithodomos in addition, full of storage vessels, and both cella and pronaos had a central door on the E. Like A the cella had a hearth with an offering table at its W end, and a libation basin in the NW corner. Like the somewhat earlier Dreros temple (q.v.), these temples represent an early type deriving from the Mycenaean meganon with certain Minoan features added; the architectural order is not yet cleanly defined. The cult seems not to have outlasted the archaic period.
  A number of archaic house foundations have been found on the plateau. At its SW side, W of the temples, is a rectangular Hellenistic (probably 2d c.) fort, with square towers projecting from the corners, interior dimensions 40 x 36 m and entrance on the cliff edge at the SE corner. Reused in its walls were blocks bearing early inscriptions and primitive (7th c.) funerary stelai incised with a hoplite or female figure. Inside and round the fort were found many arrowheads and other iron weapons, and sling-bullets of lead.
  Inscribed sherds (2d c.) attest a cult of Athena. No coins have been found at the site, which seems to have been gradually depopulated in the Hellenistic period and has little sign of city life after the 2d c. B.C. If the site was Apollonia, settlement probably largely moved to its port (of the same name) near modern Gazi, just W of Iraklion.

D. J. Blackman, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 1 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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