A Land Enriched by History
Searching backward in time is a compelling way to understand and appreciate the Crete of today.
Crete was invaded by a series of conquerors starting with the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece in 1450BC. Soon the Dorians invaded and later the Romans. When the Roman Empire declined, the Byzantines took their turn and it was at this time (between the 5th-9th centuries) that Christianity was established. There was a small break when the Arabs conquered Crete in the 8th century. Crete fell to the hands of the Venetians in the early 13th century and Venetian occupation lasted 450 years. The Venetians surrendered to the Turks in 1669 and their rule lasted until 1898. Crete was placed under international administration for a few years until it officially became part of Greece in 1913.
The Venetian influence proved to be the strongest. It was a time of great organisation and fortification giving Crete a new brilliance. Today Venetian fortifications and castles still stand strong and proud reinforcing their historical significance on the island. Fortezza, Castello del Molo, Spinalonga and Frangokastello are a few examples of monuments which bestow an intriguing and awe-inspiring atmosphere. One can’t help but delve into a captivating past marked with a turbulent history of fierce battles and a fighting spirit.
An extraordinary blend of distinguished religious buildings are evident throughout the island. Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries played an important role during the long struggles for freedom. Their beautiful frescoes are well preserved reflecting the evolution and trends of the Byzantine Period. Remnants from the Ottoman Rule are a number of scattered Muslim mosques with impressive minarets such as the Yiali Tzami.
Narrow cobblestone streets lead the way from enchanting harbours towards the old towns. These are fringed with magnificent architecture which combine oriental features from the Turkish period as well as Venetian Renaissance style. Elegant historical buildings house important government offices, museums, cultural events, art exhibitions and theatrical performances.
Although the island was influenced by foreign conquerors and endured great diversity of cultures, it remains an indisputable fact that Crete set its own inimitable stamp on everything it touched. Presently the island preserves much of its history emphasising the undying spirit of the Cretan heart.