Rethymno: A journey to History and Multiculturalism
Rethymno is situated on the north coast of Crete. The city is inhabited since 1600 BC; its history and cultural identity has been influenced from the Turkish, Arabic and Venetian domination. A visit in the historic center offers the ascertainment that Rethymno is a multicultural, colourful and well-preserved city.
Starting from the Old Town, one of the best-preserved cities of the Renaissance that is located in the heart of modern Rethymno, you will admire the oriental characteristics of the Turkish period as well as the Renaissance-style Venetian architecture. Meeting the small harbour in the Old Town, you will be impressed of the 13th-century Venetian mole which was used as its protection. This is the ideal starting-point for a visit to the Fortezza, the Venetian fortress of Rethymno (16th century), that is located in the centre of the Old Town.
Rethymno is a region with historical monasteries and cathedrals, beautiful museums, amazing streets, shops and architecture. Its quiet, idyllic villages as well as its long, sandy beaches offer some trouble-free moments, inviting visitors to come back again and again.
In the heart of the Old Town, at Titou Petihaki Square, the impressive Fountain that stands there, has taken its name by the city’s governor A. Rimondi who built it in 1626. It is located in the old Venetian square, following the architectural model of St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Through the three lion heads, the fountain still springs water.
The Venetian Loggia of Rethymno is a square building with arched fronts on three sides. It is located at Paleologou Street and was built during the 16th century by Michele Sanmicheli. The eminent building was used as the meeting point of the nobles, while during the Ottoman domination was operated as a mosque. Nowadays, Loggia hosts the Archaeological Museum replica shop.
In the heart of the Old Town, at Titou Petihaki Square, the impressive Fountain that stands there, has taken its name by the city’s governor A. Rimondi who built it in 1626. It is located in the old Venetian square, following the architectural model of St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Through the three lion heads, the fountain still
During the Venetian times the Mosque Neratzes (or Gazi Hussein Mosque) was a church, dedicated to Mary of Augustans. In 1657 the town had fallen to the Turks and the church was turned into a mosque with the addition of three domes. The minaret was rebuilt in 1890 as “the most beautiful minaret of the East”. It is the highest minaret in the city with two balconies for the call to prayer and one of the best-preserved in Crete. Located on Emmanouil Vernardou the Mosque Neratzes houses the Municipal Odeon, run by the Association for the Propagation of the Arts.
OLD HARBOUR – LIGHTHOUSE
The structures across the harbour were built by the Ottomans. However, in the entrance the Venetian Customhouse still stands, operating today as an info point. The 13th-century Venetian mole was used as a small breakwater that managed to face the wild waves of the Cretan Sea. It is in remarkably good condition despite the centuries that passed by. The imposing lighthouse at the entrance of the old port was built in the Ottoman period by Mehmet Allie, who was the governor of Crete from 1830 to 1840. Today, it stands as a great reminder of the past.
Almost in the centre of the old town, the Venetian castle of Fortezza with centuries of history, is visible from every corner, offering panoramic views of the city and the sea to the west. The foundation stone of the Fortezza was laid by the Venetian Governor Alvise Lando on September 1573, though the whole construction was completed in 1580.
This Venetian castle is a trademark of Rethymno and for years it has been hosting plays, music and dance events as well as conferences, painting exhibitions and film shows. The castle is uninhabited and the most important buildings in it are constantly renovated.
Tip: You can reach the Fortezza either through the alleys of old town or more easily by following the coast road, behind the old Venetian harbour.
MOSQUE KARA MUSA
Located at the beginning of Arkadiou Street, the Mosque Kara Musa Pasa was founded in 1660s. It is another former Venetian building turned into a mosque after the fall of Crete to Ottomans. The small dome aside of the Mosque is said to be the tomb in which Kara Musa Pasa, the founder, was buried himself, in 1692. Today the place hosts cultural events.
Porta Guora (or Great Gate) of Rethymno is the only remaining of city’s Venetian Walls. Despite the big changes throughout the years, it is still recognizable as the imposing entrance to the fortifications. The Great Gate was based on the plans of Michele Sanmicheli and built when the governor of the city was Jacomo Guoro (1566-1568). It leads to the central square of Rethymno (Four Martyrs square) with its imposing public buildings. The Venetian Symbol of a Winged Lion that was decorating the Gate, is now placed in the courtyard of the Loggia.
OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS
The church of Our Lady of the Angels (Kyria ton Angelon) was built by the Dominican Friars at the end of the Venetian period and was dedicated to Mary Magdalene. The Ottomans changed it into a mosque with the addition of a mihrab and a minaret. Since 1917 it has been a Greek Orthodox church dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. Locals call it the “Mikri Panagia” (Little Virgin) in order to distinguish it from the main Cathedral of the Panagia in Rethymno.
The old church built in 1844, was ruined by the bombardment of 1941 and finally demolished in 1956. The new building has the same wooden temple and its imagery composed in 1852 by famous Greek artists. The Cathedral is dedicated to the Entries of Theotokos and is also called Megali Panagia (Great Holy Mary).
THE HISTORICAL – FOLK MUSEUM
Situated in Vernardou Street, the Museum was founded in 1973 by Christophoros Stavroulakis and Fani Voyiatzaki who donated the building. It stands as one of the most representative examples of a town house dating from the end of the Venetian occupation (17th century). The Museum preserves collections of historical items, woven fabrics, weaving equipment, pottery, baskets, metalwork, coins, costumes etc. There is also a room with an exhibition on traditional crops and bread-making.