Monday, 16 September 2013

Old Heraklion

Today we drove to Old Heraklion where we spent a few hours looking at the sights.

Morosini Fountain, adorned with four lions, is one of the best known sights in the city. Built by the Venetian governor Francesco Morosini in the 17th century in 1628 used to supply the fortified city with water.

Morozini Fountain

On the square of Saint Titus and along 25th August street, you will find an impressive building of the Venetian times that has survived and functions till today: the Venetian Loggia, a typical construction of the Venetian rule, has been renovated and hosts today the Town Hall of Heraklion. The Loggia that survives today in Heraklion was built in the 1620s by the Venetian Morozini, an architect who had also constructed many other public works in the town. According to historical accounts, there were other three previous loggias before this one, but for various occasions, they were not functional until this last was constructed. The Loggia was a place for the Venetian noblemen to gather and discuss the local economical and social issues. It also worked as a Club, in modern terms. This is a rectangular building with an open adit in the ground floor. The ground floor was built following the doric style, that is austere and severe, and the upper floors had a more ionian style, with ormaments and nice decorations. When the Turks conquered Crete, they made the Loggia their administrative centre. When Crete became autonomous in 1898, the Loggia was in bad state and would face the danger to collapse. The works for its renovation started in 1915 but they were interrupted by the Second World War in 1940. Today, the Loggia of Heraklion has been fully renovated and houses the Town Hall. In fact, it is considered as the most elegant Venetian building in Crete and in 1987, it received the Europa Nostra award as the best renovated monument of the country.

In 961, Nicephorus Phocas drove the Arabs from Crete, bringing the island back under the wing of the powerful Byzantine Empire. This is when the first Orthodox church of St Titus must have been built, to rekindle the Christian faith and tradition in Crete, which had declined due to the corsair conquest of the island.

Saint Titus was a disciple of the Apostle Paul and the first Bishop of Crete. The first church dedicated to him was that in the old capital Gortyn, which also housed the metropolitan see of the island until its destruction by earthquake and the Arab transfer of the capital from Gortyn to Chandax (Heraklion) in 828 AD.

The skull of St Titus, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mesopanditissa and other sacred relics from Gortyn were moved to the new church.

At the fall of Heraklion to the Turks all relics were removed to Venice, where they still remain today. The single exception is the skull of St Titus, which was returned to Heraklion in 1966 and is now kept in a silver reliquary in the church.

During the period of Turkish rule, the church of Saint Titus was ceded to Vizier Fazil Ahmet Kiopruli, who converted it into a mosque known as the Vezir Mosque.

The great earthquake of 1856 totally destroyed the church. It was rebuilt in its present form as an Ottoman mosque by architect Athanasios Moussis, who also designed the Orthodox cathedral of Saint Minas and the barracks in Eleftherias Square.

The minaret of Saint Titus was demolished in the 1920s, when the last Muslims left Heraklion with the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Today Saint Titus (Agios Titos in Greek) is an Orthodox church dedicated to St Titus the Apostle, following modifications carried out by the Church of Crete in 1925.

This building seemed to be influenced by Turkish architecture.

The city is also renowned for the medieval fortress of Koul├ęs overlooking the Venetian harbour and the Venetian walls that still surround a part of the city. At the southernmost bastion of the fortress, Martinengo Bastion, lies the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, the famous Cretan author, whose epitaph reads: “I believe in nothing, I hope for nothing, I am free”.

The Venetian shipyards are also known as the Venetian Arsenals.

Heraklion shipyards during the Venetian period

The shipyards are elongated, vaulted chambers for the construction and repair of the ships of the Venetian fleet. The Venetian navy ruled the Mediterranean and the Venetians built shipyards in all their harbours, ensuring that their war and merchant vessels would always be in good condition and ready to sail quickly and safely from port to port.

The Heraklion shipyards were an ambitious technical project completed in four phases from the 15th to the 17th century. A total of 19 shipyards were built in Heraklion, grouped in three complexes. They communicated via arched openings and were closed off with doors of heavy slatted timbers.

Today only 5 or 6 of the 19 shipyards remain. It should be noted that the shipyards facing the Venetian harbour are not complete, as a large section was demolished to build the coastal road.

Between the shipyards was a large salt warehouse, while a large water cistern with a capacity of 20,000 barrels was built to the west of the last shipyard. It consists of two vaulted chambers with connecting archways, with four skylights to let in air and light. If you wish to see a little more on the history of the town

Colourful fishing boats in the harbour.

These dogs caught our attention. They were faithful friends. We first saw them wander in to a recreational area where they kept an eye on each other. They both moved a few times and settled back to snooze not too far from each other.

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