Friday, June 25, 2021

The Muslim Village in Crete Every Christian Feared and Avoided

Grantos was a small settlement south of Megali Vrysi in the prefecture of Heraklion on the island of Crete.

Its existence is associated with a lot of stories about its inhabitants who not only changed their faith during the Turkish occupation from Orthodox Christian to Muslim, but also became the most bloodthirsty and dangerous in the region.

The presence of the village is recorded during the Venetian occupation when in 1583 it had 34 inhabitants. During the Turkish occupation it was a purely Turkish village with 35 Muslim inhabitants.

This village had gained a bad reputation because of its inhabitants who are said to have been so cruel that any Christian who happened to pass by there was terrified, hence why the place was called Grantos, which indicates it was a place where bad things happened to you. The Muslims of the village put the Christians to the test and made them regret the time and the moment they found themselves in their way. Therefore, it is speculated that the village was named Grantos.

The people who lived there, however, had called this place Koutsouk Bahce, meaning small garden, because its land was fertile and its water was plentiful because of its springs. In fact, we meet one of them just before we reach the settlement on the main road.

Today, only one building from the settlement of Grantos survives, and this is in poor condition, while the rest of the village has been turned into a pasture and its houses have been completely demolished.

At the highest point of the settlement on a landscaped plateau, with a wonderful view to the plain of Messara, the Church of Saint George is preserved. As it is known, he is the Saint who was feared and in several cases honored by the Muslims of Crete. When the Christians became Muslims, they did not destroy the church, but allowed it to stand.

It is a single-aisled and vaulted church that tradition says to have been destroyed at least twice. Inside we see few pieces of the original building while the rest are later additions.

The church has been renovated and the area around it has been designed to host the festival every year on the day that Saint George is honored on April 23rd.

It should be noted that just below Grantos is the village of Vleroma. Vleroma remained Christian throughout the Turkish occupation.  No one knowns exactly why the entire village of Grantos became Muslim and its neighboring village of Vleroma remained Christian. It is believed that the people of Vleroma placed their hopes in Saint John the Baptist, whose church was in their village and was their patron saint. Eventually both villages became deserted and fell into ruin. All that remains in both villages are its two churches.