Architectural Monuments of Chania From the Byzantine Era up to the 19th Century
The whole city of Chania is a large museum, in which visitors can find monuments from various historical periods and civilizations that tell the story of this city throughout the ages. The Byzantine Walls When the Byzantine general Nikephoros Phokas liberated the island of Crete from the Arabian occupation, in 961, the Byzantine Empire decided to fortify the city of Chania. On top of the old walls that were built a few centuries earlier, new, stronger walls were built, that surrounded the hill of Castello in an irregular shape.
The Venetian Port During the Venetian rule of Crete, the Byzantine Walls were repaired in many places and the fortification was made stronger. However, in the mid-16th century the town of Chania was fortified once again with modern (for that period) walls and a moat, that was however never filled with water. The walls created a square shape around the main city and had three gates. Nowadays, one can still see parts of the east gate, “Gate Sabbionara” or “Pili tis Amu” (which means Gate of the Sand in Greek) and of its bastion, in Kumkapi. A large quantity of monuments were created, during the Venetian era in Chania, from which many survive up to this day. Countless churches were built during that time throughout the island of Crete and are definitely worth a visit, but leaving them aside, the old Venetian port of Chania is something every visitor must see. The old port starts at the Sintrivani Square (“Fountain Square” in Greek) where there used to be a sizable fountain, decorated with lion heads, that gave the square its name. Moving towards the west side of the port one will find the Firka Fortress (Firka means barrack in Turkish). This fortress was built on the edge of the port, so as to protect its entrance and in case of a siege a chain would be placed from Firka to the lighthouse, in order to block the entrance of the port. Right next to the Firka Fortress still stands today, half of a circular barrack from the original fortification of the city by the Genoese in the early 13th century. In addition, one can also see the San Salvatore bastion that was added later. On the other side of the Sintrivani Square, on
the east, are the Venetian Shipyards. During the Venetian Rule (12041669), the need for a strong presence of a Venetian fleet in Crete, resulted in the erection of the shipyards, where the Venetian ships were repaired during the winter. Up until the early 17th century 20 shipyards had been built alongside the old port. The three most recent shipyards are called Shipyards of Moro. From the largest complex, that consisted of 17 shipyards, eventually 9 were demolished. Today a complex of 7 consecutive domes and the Grand Arsenali still stand. The Grand Arsenali is the largest of the shipyards and is currently used as the Centre of Architecture in the Mediterranean. From the complex of the Moro shipyards, two are still standing, on the very edge of the port. The third shipyard collapsed in the bombing of the city in 1941. Right after the Moro complex, one can see the breakwater that leads to the lighthouse, and halfway through it, the St. Nicholas bastion.
The Egyptian Lighthouse The lighthouse that currently adorns the old Venetian port of Chania maintains its Venetian trapezoidal base that was built in the 16th century. But the lighthouse itself was, in fact, rebuilt by the Egyptians, when in 1830-1840 Crete was under the rule of the regent of Egypt, Mehmet Ali Pasha. Crete was given to him in return for his services to the Sultan during the Greek revolt of 1821. The main stem of the lighthouse consists of three parts: the lower part is an octagon, the middle part a hexadecagon, whereas the top part of the lighthouse is circular and is similar to a minaret. The Ottoman Chania In 1646 Crete was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and during their long rule a large amount of buildings were built. These buildings are quite unique and the culture and religion of the Ottomans have left their mark on them. Between the Sintrivani Square and the Grand Arsenali, stands the impressive and exceptional Giali Tzamisi that was built during the second half of the 17th century in honor of Kiutsuk Hasan. The mosque of Kiutsuk (small) Hasan or as it is better known as Giali Tzamisi (glass mosque) was the work of an Armenian architect. It is a cubic complex that is covered by a large dome that stands on four elaborate stone arches. On the west and north side, the building is surrounded by a gallery with six smaller domes. In the yard of the mosque there used to be palm trees and burial monuments of Pashas and Janissaries. It stopped
functioning as a mosque in 1923. The mosque has been preserved, and can be visited today, but unfortunately without the small and beautiful minaret that was demolished early in the 20th century. A mainly Ottoman part of the city of Chania, was Splatzia. There, the monastery of St. Nicholas of the Dominican Order was turned into Hiugar Tzamisi, the main mosque of the city. On the southwest corner of the building, one can find the impressive minaret with its two balconies, that still stands today, after all this time. On the Splatzia square, right in front of the
church of St. Nicholas (which is currently used as an orthodox church), exists a large underground Ottoman fountain, that seems to have been constructed in the 18th century. Twenty six steps lead the visitors down to the room of the fountain, which is divided in three parts by arches. In addition to all these monuments built during the Ottoman rule, many hammams, as well as fountains were constructed in the city of Chania. Furthermore, almost every Christian church was turned into a mosque with the addition of minarets. One of these minarets can be found on Hatzimihali Daliani street, which is west of Splatzia. Everything mentioned above is only a sample of the monuments that can be found in the city of Chania. We have mainly mentioned the most important and well-known sights that one can visit. Undoubtedly, everyone that has the opportunity to take a stroll around the city, should not miss out on the chance to admire those magnificent monuments.
Cv h JUNE 2017