Byzantine, Arab and Venetian Eras

History

The prosperity of Christian Crete under the protection of the Byzantine Empire was fiercely interrupted by the Arabs in 824 AD. The new occupiers of the island converted Candia, today’s Heraklion, to a base for their pirate raids in the Mediterranean Sea.

After several failed attempts, the Byzantines eventually managed to liberate Crete in 961 AD under the orders of Nicephorus Phocas, giving a new impetus to the Byzantine tradition of Crete.

After the Occupation of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Venetians became the new masters of Crete until 1669. During this that period, Crete experienced a great economic and spiritual development, despite the revolutionary activities of local population. Large cities were reconstructed, adorned with imposing monuments and fortified with massive walls.

Meanwhile, it was a period in which art flourished. Great iconographers and painters came to the fore, such as Dominicus Theotocopoulos (El Greco) and Michael Damascenus.

Moreover, literature, poetry, music and theater experienced an unprecedented bloom and produced masterpieces such as Erotokritos and Erophile. This course was disrupted in 1669 when Candia, the last fortress in Crete, was surrendered to the Ottomans after 21 years of siege.

Venetian walls of Candia was the largest medieval fortification project in the East Mediterranean.

Venetian Harbor of Rethymnon

The Venetian Harbor of Rethymnon, next to the modern harbor of the city, with the Egyptian lighthouse is one of the most picturesque areas of the old town. It operated in the Byzantine period (after 961), but flourished during the Venetian period. The Venetians in the 14th century started major projects to facing the problem of siltation, which holds till today.

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Prinias Carved Wine Presses

Some meters away from the village Prinias, province Malevizi, at the area called Patitiria a very pleasant surprise awaits us. This area is scattered with medieval wine presses, all carved into the soft limestone of the region. The presses are evidence of ancient winemaking traditions of the region from ancient times until today with wines famous all over the known world. The grounds and the altitude of this region are considered ideal for growing wine grape varieties. The area with the carved presses is within walking distance from the archaeological site of Patela, where ancient city Rizinia is found.

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