Chania, Chania, Crete
Venetian Walls of Chania
|Region > Prefecture:|
|Municipality > Town:|
|City of Chania |
|Time of Construction||Origin|
Based on the masonry of the walls surrounding Kastelli Hill, the first fortifications at the city of Chania or ancient Cydonia date back to the Hellenistic period. The later Byzantine wall is associated with the recapture of Crete by Nicephorοs Phocas in 961, and the programme instigated by the Byzantines to rebuild and fortify key positions in Crete and the Aegean region.
The topology of the hill appears to have forced the Byzantine fortifications to follow the course of the ancient wall. The main building material was reused stone from ancient Cydonia, as the city was largely destroyed after the period of Arab rule (824-961).
After the Fourth Crusade (1204) and the fall of Byzantium, Crete was given to Bonifacio, Marquess of Montferrat. He in turn chose to sell it to the Venetians for 100 silver marks. Chania was chosen as the seat of the Rector (Administrator General) of the region and flourished as a significant commercial centre of a fertile agricultural region.
The Venetian rule was initially strict and oppressive but slowly the relations between the two parts improved. Contact with Venice led to close intertwining of Cretan and Venetian cultures, without, however, the Cretans losing their Greek Orthodox faith. The city's name became La Canea and fortifications were strengthened, giving Chania the form that it still has today.
On the other hand, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, many priests, monks and artists took refuge in Crete and reinforced the Byzantine religion and culture on the island. The city of Chania during the period that followed was a blend of Byzantine, Venetian, and Classical Greek cultural elements. Many of the important buildings of the town were built during this era and the intellectual activities (written word, music, education) were also promoted.
However, the walls did not prevent the Ottoman army from overrunning the city in 1645 after two months' siege. The Ottomans landed near the Monastery of Gonia in Kissamos, which they plundered and burnt. They seized Chania itself on 2 August 1645. The Turks despite their victory suffered severe losses.. The Ottoman commander was executed on returning home for losing up to 40,000 men. Later, most churches were turned into mosques. The Turks resided mainly in the eastern quarters, Kastelli and Splantzia, where they converted the Dominican church of St Nicholas into the central Sovereign's Mosque (Turkish: Hünkar Camısı).
Structure, Fortification & Buildings
The wall has suffered considerable damage and survives only in a few places. Large sections of it were demolished and built over, rendering it difficult to determine the exact ground plan, though excavations have yielded an overall impression of its course. It is clear that the wall consisted of straight sections forming an oval outline, and was equipped with towers, two main entrances to the east and west, and smaller gates. The east gate is located at the crossroads between Canevaro Street and Daskalogiannis Street, and the west off Syntrivani (Fountain) Square.
Both gates were flanked by square towers. In the mid-13th century Chania fell into the hands of the Venetians, whose main priority was to defend and protect the city.
To that end, from 1538 to 1549 an engineer named Michele Sammichieli was appointed to oversee the construction of new walls. The new fortifications, which also surrounded the port area, included a four-sided wall fortified by a moat, a counterscarp, heart-shaped bastions and ramparts. The main castle gate was the so-called Rethemniotiki Porta (Porta Retimiotta), to the south
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