CRETAN TRAVELLING MONKS DURING THE TURKISH PERIOD
Travelling monks, known as taxidiotes, were those who travelled for the sake of charity outside the monastery chosen as their place of penitence. They usually bore with them holy relics or miracle-working icons and administered holy rites (blessings, prayers, confessions, etc.). The travelling monks were provided with letters of recommendation by their abbots. They were also obliged to obtain permission from the local ecclesiastical authorities. These voyages were called taxidia (“travels”), zeteia or eleemosynai (“alms-collecting missions”) and were intended to collect money to build, repair or conserve the home monastery.
In this paper we examine selected case of Cretan travelling monks who begged for alms on the island or elsewhere. We make use of published and unpublished archive sources, canonical acts and literary texts in order to reconstruct the lives of the travelling monks from monastic institutions of the island. Our study is restricted to monastic institutions based in Crete, although we know that zeteia were carried out both by the senior patriarchates and by the Metropolitan of Crete, as well as by the great Eastern monasteries (Athos, Sinai, etc.).
We attempt to study the phenomenon in selected monasteries of a single geographical region. These are patriarchal, parochial, male and female institutions. The desiderata of the study are: 1) What sort of amounts did the monks manage to collect during their sacred journeys, and what did that money represent compared to the other economic activities of the monastery? 2) What were the monks’ geographical destinations? 3) Was there any regularity to these expeditions, or were they occasional activities, following a natural disaster? Οr did they form the last resort to meet a heavy debt? 4) How, finally, did the official Church view the phenomenon and how did it try to deal with charlatanism by the wandering mendicant monks?