The full name of this monastery built upon a rock overlooking the sea in southwestern Crete is Panagia Chrisoskalitissa (Our Lady of the Golden Step). It's 6 km from the beautiful pink-tinged sands of the lagoon at Elafonisi. Its walls and complex of buildings rise like a Byzantine version of the Acropolis on a rock 35 meters above its surroundings. It's about 50 km southwest of Chania in a straight line (70 by road), and an excellent day trip would combine the beauties of this lovely monastery with those of the beach at Elafonisi.
There are 98 steps leading to the front gate of the monastery, and the legend is that the last step is, or was, golden. In order to see this step, you must be free of sin. Otherwise it looks like the other 97.
Remains of a small fishing settlement dating from the Minoan era have been found nearby. Chrisoskalitissa's founding date is uncertain, but the legend is that during the latter part of the first millennium, during the height of the Byzantine Iconoclasm Controversy, a shepherd found an icon of the Koimisis (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos ("God-bearer," i.e., the Virgin Mary) hidden away in the rocks on which the monastery was subsequently built. The monastery church, which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and the Koimisis, still houses the icon.
One version of the story of the golden step is that there actually was a golden step, but that it was sold off during the Turkish Occupation. Still and all it's supposed to be visible to those without sin.
Another story talks about the Turks murdering and pillaging in western Crete on Easter Day, 1824. More than 800 people lost their lives. But, the story goes, when they came to sack the monastery, they were attacked by a swarm of bees whose hive was in the monastery's iconostasis (glass-faced repository for icons).
This corner of Crete is refreshingly free of commercial tourism. As with all monasteries in Greece, visitors who treat the grounds with respect are welcome to overnight there. Otherwise there are a few places to stay in the area of Elafonisi.