Giouhtas- Where Zeus met Jesus
Giouhtas- Where Zeus met Jesus
We know it is summer and a million degrees outside which means we should be on a beach, but we decided to go mountainous. We decided to write about Giouhtas (Γιούχτας) or Jukta since the 6th of August is a significant day for the mountain peak, as wells, Greek Orthodox religion. The mountain on this day sees most of its visitors due to the church that is build on its top, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ. Strangely (or not so strangely) on the second peak of the mountain lies a Minoan Peak Sanctuary which underlines the importance the mountain in the perceptions of the Cretans. So let's have a look in one of the most emblematic mountain figurations of the island.
The mountain has an altitude of 811 m and its home to several floral species some of which are endemic to Crete. One such example is Dittany (Dictamnus Oreganus) an endemic herb which grows in affluence on the sudden cliffs of the mountain. It is said that people of the nearby village, Archanes, had a good income from its collection and merchantise. In addition the mountain offers a great refuge to vulchers which find it as an ideal hide out. Conservation teams and environmentalists ensure that there is a balanced colony on the hillsides by bringing them food and observing them regularly. Stories of surrounding villages narrate that locals would bring heavily wounded and incapable to work animals on the mountain in order for the birds to feast, and so ensuring they would not try and find food in populated areas. Due to its interesting and unique biodiversity Giouhtas belongs to the Natura 2000 EU project
Perhaps the most interesting characteristic of the mountain is its shape. When someone is heading from West to East the mountain looks like an elders face looking towards the sky. Local legends argue that this is the face of Zeus. Foreign explorers from other parts of Europe from the times of the Crusades to the times of the Venetian rule speak of the mountain as the place where the tomb of Zeus lies with the inscription HIC ZAN JACET QUEM JOVEM VOCANT. It is actually believed that the name Giouhtas derives from the Latin name Jupiter which means Zeus.
Despite the acrobatic balance of fact with fiction and the confusion between mythology and history there are a few undeniable historic evidence. The mountain top has been used for religious practices for thousands of years which is evident by the discovery of a sanctuary. In an inscription from Argos there is reference to a mountain temple very close to the palace of Knossos where there is the worship of the seas. There is also an imaginary hierarchical pyramidic structure that connects Knossos, continues to Fourni (the oldest cemetery in the Mediterranean in between Giouhtas and Knossos) as the place of the dead, and finishes with the divine top of the holy.
Many years has passed since the Minoan Empire, and many cultures came and left the island, however the mountain still remains a place of worship. On the South peak of the mountain we find a Greek Orthodox church whose central worship is the Transfiguration of Jesus. On the 6th of August and for one week the entire mountain top is light up so people can go and pay their respects. Many go by car, however there is a large number people that take a hike to the mountain top in a form of pilgrimage. This church is the only one of Byzantine Architecture with four chancels each one dedicated to a different saint.
Youhtas has a lot of history both natural and cultural. Our purpose here is to sparkle your imagination and appetite for a visit. There are a lot to see and learn on the mountain. The course of history and the different people that have come to the island have played an important role for the shift of religious beliefs, as well as, the immense archeological and environmental attention the mountain has seen. Despite the conflict of ideas and beliefs on what is a myth and what is a tangible historical evidence, we chose to believe in the beautiful imagination of people that kept Youhtas as a sacred top. We are only observers of the colorful and imaginative meeting between Zeus and Jesus.