Heraklion town

Heraklion town in Crete

City map of Heraklion
To see : venetian fortifications, remains, Venetian church and loggia, Venetian fountain, Turkish fountain, Kazantzakis tomb, harbor, arsenal, El Greco park, remains of Roman baths, Odos 1866, archaeological museum, historical and ethnographic museum.

Heraklion, Crete. Old harbor
Heraklion, Crete. Old harbor

Capital, the largest city in Crete Crete and fifth largest city in Greece, with a population of over 120,000. Inhabited since Neolithic times, it is enclosed within its massive Venetian walls and is not very picturesque, but offers a lot to do. Heraklion area)

During the four centuries of Venetian rule, many buildings were erected which are excellent examples of Venetian architecture of that time. Many of them still exist today.

The San Marco Basilica and the Loggia are two examples, while the Morozini fountain, with its four lions, it even gave its name to the central district of the city.

Its harbor, which is quite large, is located to the east of the city. Although few ruins have been found in the city itself, it was probably the port of Knossos during the Minoan and

The Saracens took it in 824 and renamed it El Khandak (The Ditch) from the ditch they dug around it.

Heraklion, Crete. "Agios Titos"
Heraklion, Crete. "Agios Titos"

The city was retaken by the Byzantines in 961, after several unsuccessful attempts. In 1204, the Crusaders occupied Constantinople and gave Crete to Boniface of Monferrato, who sold it to the Venetians for a thousand silver coins. Under this new government, the arts flourished and " Candia " (Venetian name) became a centre of learning. Many scholars and artists took refuge in Candia after the fall of Constantinople in

In 1462, the Venetians started the construction of the fortifications, which were completed more than a century later, 4 km long, triangular in shape and with seven bastions. The Venetians also built the port and various other architectural works. The walls proved their military power during the 21-year siege of the city (one of the longest in history). The last surrender took place in 1669, after the death of 100,000 Turks and 30,000 Venetians.

The Turkish domination was severely felt by the Cretans, who were constantly engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Turks, who in turn retaliated against the Cretan population.

Heraklion, Crete. The Loggia
Heraklion, Crete. The Loggia

Heraklion expanded after the unification with Greece in 1913. However, its strategic position made it a target for invading forces again in 1941. During the Battle of Crete, German bombing caused extensive damage and after the war the city was extensively rebuilt.

The administrative centre of Crete was moved from Chania to Heraklion in 1971

The Venetian Walls (Enetika Teihi), begun in 1462 to the design of Michele Sanmicheli, are the most significant work of fortification on the island. Five kilometres long, their construction took almost a century, while the additional work for their expansion lasted until the 17th century. Reinforced by 7 large bastions and intersected by 4 gates, they constituted a wall of exceptional strength that defied the Turkish besieger for 21 years.

From this gate, Plastira Avenue takes us to the highest point of the city, the Bastion of Martinengo. This is the only place where the top of the Venetian walls can be reached and Nikos Kazantzakis (born in Heraklion in 1883 and died in Antibes in 1957), the greatest writer of Crete, was buried there.

Heraklion, Crete. El Greco
Heraklion. Jesus chasing the merchants from the Temple. El Greco, born in Heraklion

Because of his unorthodox views (demonstrated in his scandalous book "The Last Temptation"), the Orthodox Church refused to bury him in a churchyard. His simple grave bears an inscription written in his own hand: "I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free". From the bastion there is a beautiful view of the city.

The "Venetiko Limani" (venetian harbor) ends the Odos 25 Avgoustou. Protected by the Rocca al Mare or Great Koules, one can still see the Venetian Arsenali built in the 16th century for the construction and repair of ships, and the ruins of the church of San Pietro. Nowadays, the Arsenali are used as storage facilities.

The Koulès fort was rebuilt between 1523 (inscription on the north gate) and 1540 under Venetian rule. Also known as the "Megalo Koule" or "Rocca al Mare", it is recognised as the best preserved example of Venetian fortification in the city. Originally built by the Venetians in the 13th century, it was destroyed by the two powerful earthquakes of 1303 and 1500. This impressive two-storey fortress housed the port authorities, prisons and warehouses. When Iraklio recovered from Turkish rule, mosques were established in its courtyard. On its facades there are three reliefs representing the Lion of St. Mark, but it is the one facing the sea that is in better condition. The second floor is used as an open-air theatre in summer. The view of the city and the port from the castle is impressive.

Heraklion, Crete. The church Agios Titos
Heraklion, Crete. The church Agios Titos

Platia Venizelou (Venizelou Square), also known as Platia Liondarion (Lion Square), is located in the centre of the ancient the Morosini fountain built in 1628 by the Venetians and named after the governor of the time (Francesco Morosini). It consists of 8 pools decorated with figures from Greek mythology, nymphs, tritons, sea monsters and dolphins, the highest of which is supported by four seated lions. It is said that in the centre of the fountain was an impressive statue of Neptune holding a trident. The most popular version states that the statue was destroyed by an earthquake during the Turkish rule. The lions decorating it were built a century earlier. It was built on the site of an ancient 14th century fountain to commemorate the impressive Venetian construction bringing drinking water to Heraklion from Mount Youktas 15km away. Remains of the aqueduct can still be seen in Fortetsa and Karidaki. It is decorated with coats of arms and scenes from Greek mythology.

On the eastern side of the square, opposite the fountain, was the Vasiliki Agiou Markou (Basilica of San Marco). The original building (1239) was damaged by earthquakes. Rebuilt in 1303, it was later transformed into a mosque by the Turks and remained as such until 1915. After extensive renovations, it is now transformed into an exhibition hall. The original church belonged to the Venetian dukes and the Venetian nobility of Heraklion were buried there. It was the most important church in Heraklion and all official ceremonies were held here. Its façade is in the Venetian style and it houses reproductions of Creto-Byzantine frescoes from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

Heraklion. Agios Minas Cathedral
Heraklion. Agios Minas Cathedral

In the street "Odos Dikeossinis" are the old barracks. Originally Venetian, the barracks of St. George were built in the 16th century and destroyed by the Turks, who rebuilt them in 1883 according to the plans of the architect of the church of Agios Minas. The north gate is the original gate of the church of St. Francis, which stands on the site of the present Archaeological Museum.

The Loggia, the four-fronted building with semi-circular arches in Odos 25 Avgoustou was rebuilt after being heavily damaged during the Second World War. A meeting place for the nobility in the Venetian period, it was later used as a government building by the Turks and converted into a mosque. A minaret was then erected. Restored by the city, it is now used as a hotel and city exhibition hall. On the north side of the Loggia is the Sagrendo Fountain built in 1602 and featuring a disfigured female head supposedly representing the nymph Creta, mother of Pasiphae and wife of Minos according to Greek mythology.

Behind the Loggia is Agios Titos church, the patron saint of the city. Built by the Byzantines around 962, renovated in 1466, ruined by fire in 1544, converted by the Turks into a mosque (it then took the name of "Vizier Tzami"), it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1856.

Heraklion, Crete. Its harbor, at night
Heraklion, Crete. Its harbor, at night

The Turks then rebuilt a mosque which was later converted by the Cretans into a church. Since its return from Venice in 1956, it has contained the skull of St. Titos, a disciple of the Apostle Paul and the first bishop of the island. The Venetians took the skull with them when the city fell to the Turks in 1669. El Greco Park has the remains of Roman baths used until the early Christian era.

This pleasant garden houses the bust of the famous painter El Greco or his real name Domenicos Theotocopoulos, Spanish painter of Greek origin, born in Crete near Candia in 1541 and died in 1614.

On the Platia (square) "Agias Ekaterini" is the massive Agios Minas Cathedral which dominates the square. Built in 1895, it is one of the largest churches in Greece and can hold 8,000 people. The ancient church of Agios Minas is opposite the cathedral and houses icons from the 18th century.

On the other side of the square is the Byzantine church of Agia Ekaterini built in 1555 by the Venetians and housing the Museum of Religious Art. Over time, it underwent a number of modifications, including the addition of an impressive entrance in the 17th century.

Heraklion Museum. Minoan Bull
Heraklion Museum. Minoan Bull

This church was part of a Monastic School that became an intellectual centre of the island. Among its students were the poet Kornaros, author of the classical Cretan work of Erotokritos, and several learned Orthodox theologians. Byzantine and Renaissance painting styles were also taught. Eventually, these two styles blended to form the style known as the Cretan School.

The museum's collection includes six icons by Michalis Damaskinos, one of the school's notable students and a contemporary of another well-known student, Dominikos Theotokopoulos, "El Greco": (starting with the west wall) The Adoration of the Magi (2nd), The Last Scene (5th), The Virgin and the Burning Bush (8th), Christ Appears to the Holy Women (9th), The Ecumenical Council held in Nice in 325 (12th) and The Divine Liturgy (15th).

From the top of Beaufort Boulevard, the road to the airport and the east of the island starts. To the south of the square stands the bust of the Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis, and opposite him a large statue of Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1930). Between these two memorials is the road that leads around the municipal garden to Knossos. On the corner there is a marble column in honour of Nikiphoros Phokas, and a few metres further on there is a rather large monument commemorating the Cretan resistance against the Germans in 1941.

The Archaeological Museum, the museum, located on Xanthoudidou, houses the world's most important collection of Minoan artefacts, including some magnificent frescoes.

Heraklion Museum, Crete
Heraklion Museum, Crete

Its twenty galleries spread over two floors display objects from the Neolithic to the Greco-Roman period, arranged in chronological order. Some descriptions in French.

The Istoriko kai Ethnografiko Mouseo (Historical and Ethnographic Museum), founded in 1952 by the Historical Research Society of Crete and located in Odos Grevenon, contains objects of historical, religious and folklore interest. The basement houses Venetian relics and some Turkish objects.

On the upper floor of the museum, there is also the painting "View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine", painted around 1570 by Dominikos Theotokopoulos and the only painting by him in Crete. 

Source: "grecomania"