Phaestos, Crete, Greece, 15 October 2018.
(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)
This was our route of travel for the day. From Matala we drove to the Acropolis of Gortyn and Gortyn (previous post), then to Phaestos and briefly to Kaloi Limenes and back to Matala (this post).
Just before Phaestos, we encountered the Church of Agios Georgios Phalandras. It looks like two buildings combined but the left half is just an empty facade. What you can see through that doorway is just the ground beyond.
You can see this from the rear. It was built in the 16th century, in the Venetian period. The intended second aisle was never completed so two arches intended to connect the two were quickly walled up.
Tombs of eminent persons from the Venetian period were found both inside and around it. It was originally connected to a monastery founded in the 10th century and fell into disuse after 1821.
The curiously asymmetrical window at the rear of the church.
We are now in the Northwest Court in the ancient Minoan “Palace” of Phaestos.
Bull-leaping is believed to have occurred here, though I didn’t notice any happening when we were there.
Phaestos is on top of a hill with commanding views. Its construction involved the enormous effort of levelling three large terraces. Its prime importance is as one of the main Minoan “palaces” and it has been suggested that the Old Palace at Phaestos was the oldest “palace” in Minoan Crete. Settlement goes back even further, to neolithic times six thousand years ago and there is a neolithic kiln on the site.
According to legend, it was founded by Minos himself and the first ruler was his brother Radamanthys. It appears to have been mainly a religious, political and ceremonial centre and the nearby city of Agia Triadha, down on the plain below, was more of a commercial centre and became much larger.
The Old Palace was built in the Protopalatial Period (1900-1700BC) and twice destroyed by earthquake. Attempts to rebuild as the New Palace started 1750-1700BC but the “palace” was effectively abandoned 1650-1500BC and only completed 1500-1450BC, shortly before the Mycenaean invasion.
As we saw in the previous post for Gortyn, that city was founded from Phaestos in the Minoan Period, became more important during the Greek period and became the capital of Crete, Libya and Egypt during the Roman period. It eclipsed Phaestos by about 700BC and defeated and sacked it. Some settlement continued in Phaestos in the Roman era but it never regained its influence.
The Upper Court.
The upper court functioned as a kind of balcony to view proceedings in the Northwest Courtyard. Though most of the “palace” is Minoan, some of the remains of walls here date from the Greek period.
The Grand Staircase (leading to the Propylaea).
This was the central and most impressive entrance to the New Palace. The circular stub in front was the basis of a column at the start of a large two-storey building and entrance.
The Theatral Area.
The Theatral Area and the West Court it forms part of date from the Old Palace era 1900-1700BC. it was an important processional and ceremonial area.
These are store rooms for goods, primarily goods for export.
One of the Giant Pithoi.
Ancient road and remains of adjacent buildings.
One of the four Kouloures.
At the south end of the West Court there are four large round structures known as kouloures (rings) that date to the Old Palace period. Thye are thought to be for storing offerings from the Palace Shrines, or granaries.
A different one beside a road.
Part of the East Wing Complex.
This is a miniature version of the “Royal Apartments” and has been interpreted as the residence of a young prince.
The Central Court.
This dates to the old Palace period. It is a feature of every Minoan Palace, surrounded by buildings for which it provides light and air.
View of the plain below.
We can see something of the spectacular view from Phaestos. Somewhere in the distance to the left was the city of Agia Triadha, which became the local administrative centre after the earthquake around 1700BC.
Part of the East Court.
Around the East Court was a complex of small rooms which provided the workshops for the New Palace. This included a kiln.
The Northeast Complex.
This is a complex of four rooms on the north-eastern side of the Palace. Although it does not belong to the Old Palace, it was here that the Phaistos disk was found. This is a round clay tablet with spirals of hieroglyphic script on each side. The hieroglyphs were individually pressed in so it is the first known example of printing. While the script has not been deciphered, a partial interpretation is possible due to similarities with characters used in linear A and linear B. It appears to be a religious text, perhaps a chant, concerning the Mother Goddess..
This is known as the King’s Megaron or King’s Bedroom, although of course the nature of any Minoan political or religious hierarchy is unknown.
We’re almost full circle now. We are at the edge of the Northwest Court, the foreground structures are likely part of the Propylon, and the East Court is in the distance.
From nearby, looking in a different direction, but I’m not sure at what.
Back full circle now, looking over the Northwest Courtyard.
Near Phaestos, I presume this is a ruined farmhouse from relatively modern times.
From Phaestos, we headed south for a brief visit at the port of Kaloi Limenes.
The village on the beach is quite small.
The rocks are glowing in the late afternoon light.
Heading back towards Matala now. This appears to be an old church not far from the road.
A village on the other side of the valley in the late afternoon light.
Another small roadside shrine. There appears to be a bench or a bed inside on the right.
From a different angle, we can see some bells inside.
Not far from Matala now, in the late afternoon light. You may need to click on this image to see it larger.
Magnificent photos. The Kouloures is especially interesting.
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Thanks very much Peggy. That was the last Minoan site. Roman, Venetian, Ottoman and contemporary to come….
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Im looking forward to the ottoman pics Murray, this is a part of history im fascinated in. Loved this set of photos btw!
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Thanks very much Anna. There’s quite a variety to come and it will take a while to get to the Ottoman elements in Chania and Rethymno because I’m travelling in July. More on that soon.
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