Saint John was born and grew up in Egypt. Along with 35 other religious men, he went to Cyprus to live in asceticism. There they became known for their abilities to cure sicknesses. The stories of St John and his men reached the other ascetics on the island, and 39 of these joined the group. After a while all of them went on to Antalya, in the present Turkey, where another 24 ascetics joined them.
The ascetic community, now consisting of 99 men, prayed to God to show them a place in which they would be able to live a secluded life, as they were met with worship and glory from people everywhere. For that reason God told them to go to Crete, and in the year 1300 they sailed from Turkey towards Crete.
In Crete the ascetics now went up into the land, and they settled in the caves of Zoures and Characas near the village of Azogyres north of Paleochora.
But John had no intentions of staying in the ascetic community. He wanted to dedicate his life entirely to God through prayer in solitude, so one day he told his companions, that he intended to set out for a place far away from human activities. The others were unhappy to hear, that he was going to leave them, but because that was the way it was, they prayed to God to give him a life in peace. John thanked the ascetics, said goodbye to them and set out towards the north in his search. He found a cave in the present village of Spilia, 3 km south of Kolimbari, in the area of Marathokefala and stayed there for some time. Because there was no source of water for him to drink he hit the rock of the cave with a knife and water started seeping in the cave. It is still considered as Holly Water in our days. He took up his final residence, in a cave in the wild Avlaki Gorge. And through fast and prayer in the rough and barren landscape he succeeded in achieving the much coveted contact to God, which he had been constantly seeking.
The many years of asceticism had weakened John so much, that he could no longer keep upright. One day (October 6th) when he crawled out to pick the wild herbs, he lived on, a hunter mistook him for a wild animal. The hunter fired his bow and wounded him fatally. John dragged himself back to his cave, but the hunter followed the trail of blood hoping to catch his “prey”. Unhesitatingly he crawled into the cave, where he to his big surprise and fright saw John lying with crossed arms, drawing his last breath and leaving his soul to the God he had served for so many years. The hunter fell down on his knees and prayed for forgiveness, because he had killed the saint, while the cave resounded with angelic songs and was filled with wonderful fragrances. Then he hurried to Chania to tell about the saint and his own mistake. In this way John was known in big parts of Crete, and a lot of people set out for the cave to worship the dead saint, who cured all the sick.
A strange thing happened far from there in the caves at Azogyres. John’s fellow ascetics, who had vowed to die at the same day as John, in fact died that day. According to local tradition they even died in the position they happened to assume at the moment of John’s death – all of them 89 years old.
Every year on the 7th of October the memory of John and The Holy Fathers is celebrated according to a ruling by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Kyrillos Loukaris, in 1632. The celebration is delayed one day; otherwise it would coincide with the religious holiday of Thomas the Apostle.
A representation of the birth of Christ takes place in Christmas Eve in the Cave of Spilia in Kolimbari, where lots of people arrive to feel the magic of that night. A great Celebration is held on his honour on the 6th and 7th of October.
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