Rethymnon, Crete, Greece, 20 October 2018.
(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)
After spending some time in the morning at Chania, we drove back to Heraklion for the plane the next day. On the way we stopped at Rethymnon. We didn’t really visit the city, but we did spend some time at the Fortezza.
At the north side of the Fortezza, overlooking the modern town.
There has been settlement here since neolithic times and the Minoan settlement didn’t fare well with the tsunami from Thera. The hill on which the Fortezza is built is thought to have originally been an island connected to the mainland by a narrow spit but is now part of the mainland. It is also thought to be the site of the acropolis of ancient Rithymna including the temple of Apollo and the Sanctuary of Artemis, but this has not been proved archaeologically. Rithymna was most important in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC and declined afterwards. The Venetians arrived in Crete in 1211, after the 4th Crusade occupied Constantinople, and subsequently decided to build a harbour here which led to the revival of the city.
In 1571, the pirate Ulu Ali attacked Rethymnon with forty galleys and sacked it, demonstrating the inadequacy of the fortifications. Consequently, the Venetians built the Fortezza with supposedly more than 100,000 “volunteer” Cretan labourers, finishing it in 1580. They had promised the inhabitants of the city they could all come and live within the walls but that proved not to be the case and it was in any case much too small for that, so it became a place of refuge for the population instead.
In 1646, Rethymnon fell to the Ottomans. The Venetian Cathedral of San Niccol became the Mosque of Sultam Ibrahim Han and additional houses were built for the Ottoman garrison and administration. By the turn of the twentieth century, the fortezza was filled with residential buildings but these were cleared out after the Second World War and ancient buildings restored.
You can see that the angles for the gun slots are pointing down rather than out.
In 1897, the Great Powers decided to occupy the island and Rethymnon was occupied by the Russian Army until 1907 (Putin was not yet Tsar at that time). In the Second World War, the city was bombed by the Germans and many buildings destroyed. The Germans sent paratroopers in to occupy the city in 1941, thinking it was not defended. but there were two Australian and two Greek battalions as well as armed local Gendarmerie, and the Germans did not fare well here. At one stage, the Allies had captured panels requesting resupply and were able to persuade German planes to drop guns and ammunition to them. In the same way they were able at one point to direct the Germans to drop bombs on their own troops. However, they were unable to receive the general order to withdraw and the Australians and one Greek Battalion had to surrender when they ran out of food and ammunition, while the other Greek battalion, mainly Cretans, was able to disperse into the countryside.
Walls and gun emplacements.
The city was very poor after the war but it is much more prosperous now, with main income from tourism as well as agriculture such as olive oil.
This is the Ottoman Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han, formerly the Catholic Cathedral of St Nicholas. The base of the former minaret is on its left side.
I presume this is a small mausoleum but I’m unable to find a description online.
Councillor’s residence, possible mausoleum and Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han.
The Councillor’s Residence.
The Rector, or Governor, ruled with the aid of two Councillors, one of whom lived here.
The square openings in the walls were presumably emplacements for cannon.
Corner gun emplacement.
You can get a glimpse here of the task of gunners firing down to repel invaders and preserve the Fortezza. The Fortezza was said to be vulnerable both due to its small size and because it was not surrounded by a ditch.
I understand that the Greek Government is unlikely to be willing to supply these cannons to the Russians in Ukraine (though they would only be a danger to anyone trying to fire them).
The remains of a series of food storerooms and water cisterns.
The storeroom archways divided the storerooms into smaller spaces and supported the roof.
Underneath are mysterious passages, perhaps storerooms,
I seem to recall this was once used as a prison….
One of the “tubes” was filled with relics from the Ottoman era.
The Ottomans were less than sympathetic to the local population and all Moslems were thrown out in 1923. (There are some now in the more tolerant era of today).
I suspect these are tombstones.
There may be an interesting story to be told if I could read Arabic and understand the iconography.
The ceiling of the Ottoman Mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim Han.
The mihrab, unfortunately defaced by graffiti.
An ammunition storage depot, with a pyramidical roof, perhaps to help cannon balls bounce off.
A southern part of the wall.
The city and the port.
Inside the church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas.
Getting in closer….
The souvenir shop, located inside an old Venetian enclosure.
The old Venetian harbour and lighthouse.
That was the last post on Crete, apart from three mono posts to come, and maybe a live music one. There have been 18 posts, nearly 500 images and close to 12,000 words in commentary. It has included visits to Minoan, Greek, Roman, Venetian and Ottoman sites, artefacts from a couple of museums, views of often remote landscapes and street scenes. You can see any of these posts from links in the Itinerary, which I have just updated.
Next posts will come more frequently than usual for a couple of weeks. Then I will start posting on my recent trip to North Queensland and much later get back to rest of the trip that included Crete, with Andalusia, Barcelona, Oregon and Washington.