This beautiful new sculpture celebrating Captain Kazanis and his band of rebels, including, the female fighter, Kritsotopoula is sited high up above the Lassithi Plateau. Elsewhere in these pages you’ll see photos of the amazing Kritsotopoula sculpture sited just outside of Lato, near Kritsa commemorating the 1823 battle. Both these wonderful monuments were created by the British sculptor who lives in Kritsa, Nigel Ratcliffe.
Disappointed not to be in Crete during August when this sculpture was unveiled we set off to find it at the earliest opportunity.
We left Kritsa on the road to the Katharo Plateau and passed the three cafes to take the main perimeter road running to the right. I should say that from this point a 4×4 vehicle is the best option!
Although we love the Katharo Plateau this was not a day for idling. However, I challenge anyone not to stop and admire the view on reaching the precipice above the Lassithi Plateau. The next stretch of downhill track is used regularly by jeep safari vehicles so it’s not as rough as you might imagine.
We soon realised we’d stopped in a regular goat feeding area. Goats came running from all directions, bells jangling, to surround us. They seemed most put out to find we didn’t have their food, and this cheeky one checked inside our car, just in case we were hiding something tasty.
Back in the car we followed the track down to a sharp bend where the main track descends to Lassithi. We took the rising track to the right.
Agios Ionnis at ΑΛΟΙΔΑ, Aloitha
We knew we needed to find a small stone church dedicated to Agios Ionnis (Saint John) and were pleased its surrounding trees provided a shady place to park. Right away we saw the sculpture at the side of the track, next to a natural spring now harnessed via a tap and trough. This spring certainly provided a wonderful spot for the rebels to muster, hide and plan. When I saw a chair sheltered under a huge walnut tree I found it easy to imagine Kazanis sat there, planning his next raid while enjoying his pipe and raki, the strong Cretan spirit distilled from wine making leftovers.
Nigel has a studio in Kritsa where he created this monument in clay before casting it in a resin material. While I cheerfully admit to knowing nothing about sculpture I think the fact the ‘clay’ effect is retained really works in this rural setting. Once the main disc was complete it was taken to the site where volunteers built the surround and mount in one day. During this work a local farmer wandered by and stayed to entertain the workers with a recitation of the epic Kritsotopoula poem. No mean feat, as it has 1367 fifteen-syllable verses in rhyming pairs!
This oral tradition is of course dying out, so it is wonderful that another Kritsa resident, Aimilios Massaros published a book of the poem in Greek. I used this version as the basis of my novel featuring Kazanis and Kritsotopoula. My rough translation of the poem gave me a good framework, but it is thanks to Nigel’s generosity in sharing his much finer translation that I gained greater detail.
I’m currently working on a sequel, Rodanthe’s Legacy featuring the further adventures of Kazanis. You can imagine what a boost it gave me to visit this spot in the Lassithi mountains, not far from Marmaketo where Kazanis lived.
Always curious about what might lie around the next bend we donned our walking boots and set off up the track, bottles full of crystal spring water of course!
Delighted to meet a local, miles from visible habitation, I used my limited Greek to tell him our car was by the Kazanis sculpture. It was obvious he knew what I meant so I told him I knew Angelos (the name local people give Nigel) and that we also live in Kritsa. He told us if we kept walking we’d get to Tapes, so now we have a goal for another day. As he rode off I realised I reognised the man from Facebook photos Nigel had shared, he’d recited the Kritsotopoula.
After our walk we descended to the Lassithi Plateau for a tasty lunch at Skapanis Taverna; we can certainly recommend their mousakka and stuffed cabbage leaves and the complimentary orange cake was delicious. You can click here for a map showing Skapanis Taverna, and if you pan to the right you’ll see the location of Agios Ionnis.
Now I must go, I need to write a scene set in this location for my work in progress…