Sivas

Sivas is a village in the Municipality of Phaistos, in the Pirgiotissis Province. It is located on the southwestern edge of the Messara plains, in Crete, at an altitude of 110 meters. The inhabitants are engaged in agriculture while it has been designated as a traditional settlement. Its distance from Heraklion is 62 km. In the village, there are the churches of St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas, St. Marina, St. Spyridon, the Prophet Elijah and St. George. There is a kindergarten, an elementary school, a Regional Medical Center and the Sivas Christian Center. There are also traditional cafés and taverns. Near the village is the Holy Monastery of Our Lady Odegetria (“the Guide”) which has a folklore museum.

As far as the name of the village goes, the male ‘Sivas’ has prevailed over the earlier female ‘Siva’, to avoid confusion with the other Siva village, in Heraklion.

Historical Information

The village is the birthplace of St. John Xenos or St. Mister John, who worked for the revival of Orthodoxy in Crete, after its liberation from the Saracens by Nikiforos Fokas in 961. Thus, the village dates from back then. Today, the birthplace of the saint is called Tzovaeri (from the Turkish word Cevahir, that means ‘diamond’).

Saint John lived in western Crete and founded the Monastery of the Virgin in Miriokefala (Rethymnon) and the Monastery of Our Lady of Angels, also known by the name Catholic. He cloistered in a cave near the latter where he died, on October 7th, when his memory is celebrated ever since.

Near the village of Koufos of Cydonia, the Church of the Zoodohos Pigi (Life Giving Fountain), with the particular architectural style, is saved. It was founded by the said saint and is known as St. Mister John. The village is currently subject to Topolia, Kissamos.

Sivas is mentioned in writing, in some 1271 contracts: Stephanus Sclavus habitator in casali nomine Sciva dare tenetur Nicolao…mensuras boni frumenti cretensis 74… (A. Lombardo, Documenti della colonia veneziana di Creta, p. 114). The fact that the above contract mentions a wheat debt makes us assume that it is about Sivas in Messara. The place name Siva occurs twice in Heraklion and it is unknown whether there is any correlation with Shiva, the Hindu god.

There are different versions about the origin of the name. The most dominant one claims the presence of abundant natural springs in the area (from the Arabic word siva, meaning spring).