The Cave of Melidoni is located approximately 2km northwest of Mylopotamos village in Rethymnon prefecture. It is an important cave due to its archeological and the role that played in the history of Cretan revolution against the Turks, in 1824.
Archaeological findings, some of which are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon, indicate that the cave had been inhabited from the Late Neolithic Era till the Late Roman period. Although initially it was used as a place of residence due to the Neolithic tools that were discovered in 1928, during the Middle Minoan period (from 2100 to 1600 BC) the cave became a sacred place for religious ceremonies to worship the Great Mother Goddess and Talos . Proof of that was the copper ax that was found in 1940.
Gerontospilios, as also called, is of great historical importance, since it is connected to a great tragedy of the Greek history during Ottoman occupancy. Because, in 1823, the Turkish army attacked the Melidoni village, 340 women and children and 30 men decided to leave the village and hide into the cave along with 20 Greek resistance fighters. When the Turks discovered their hideout, they encircled the cave and asked them to surrender. The Cretans refused and so the Turks made several unsuccessful attacks to occupy the cave. Finally on January 1841 and after the death of 24 ruler’s soldiers, the Ottoman leader Hussein Beis, decided to block the entrance of the cave with branches and other flammable materials and set them fire. All the Cretans died from asphyxiation caused by smoke. For this reason, visitors of the cave will find a small temple-ossurari with the bones of the innocent villagers in order to honor the heroes of Melidoni.
The Melidoni cave is an horizontal cave, and one of three large caves on the Isle of Crete, operating from April to October from 8am to 7pm. Visitors have to be 3,50€ entrance fee.
Visitors can access only the first hall of the cave due to the archaeological excavations that are taking place at the other halls of the cave. On the first hall, called “Heroes room”, visitors will get impressed by its enormous stalagmites and stalactites. They will also see the temple-ossurari in memory of the Cretan villagers that died there. Then visitors will meet “Crossroads” where two lanes start. The right lane leads to the huge room of “Paslef”, where stalagmites and stalactites create a wonderful complex and offer a dream-like spectacle. Massive rocks lead to the “Rock hall”, from where a narrow lane leads to the “Chamber of the sink”. Next is the “Upper Room”, where the lane ends. The left lane leads to a single chamber, the “Chamber of the curtains”, where the magnificent decoration of folds, stalagmite and stalactite material is fascinating.