The fall of the Venetian port of Candia – the modern-day city of Iraklio – to the Ottomans in September 1669 was an event of such geopolitical and cultural significance that its impact was felt well beyond Crete, stretching across the Western world and to the east.
The siege of the city is the subject of an exhibition of historical artifacts and other material organized by the Municipality of Iraklio at its wonderful Vikelaia Library, which will remain on display through December 20. A conference on the subject was also held this past weekend.
Titled “Cretan War 1645-1669,” the exhibition aims to provide fresh insight into the both the event itself and life in the city during that period, but also to help educate the public about a chapter of history whose impact is little understood.
Coming after a 23-year siege, the fall of Candia to the Ottomans upset the balance of power between Venice and Constantinople but also affected developments in the silk trade between East and West.
Venice had held the strategically significant port for 465 years from 1204 to 1669, during which time it developed into a major metropolis and commercial center with a vibrant cultural life.
Its importance is still evident in the surviving Venetian buildings, such as the shipyards, the port, the restored Loggia, the Basilica of Saint Mark, the Morosini Fountain and the Dominican Church of Saint Peter, among many more splendid buildings, some of which were demolished in modern times.
The barbaric demolition of the Church of San Salvatore during the 1967-64 dictatorship, for example is a blot on the country’s modern history. The demolition of the church, which the Ottomans had converted into a mosque (Valide Camii), was staunchly opposed by influential architect Argyris Petronotis, whose stance angered the regime despite having widespread support. Despite his efforts, though, the church came down in 1970.
The November 1-3 conference was organized under the supervision of Ioannina University professor emeritus Giannis Mavromatis, in cooperation with University of Cyprus assistant professor Eirini Papadaki and literature PhD Eirini Lidaki.
It presented valuable material pertaining to the Cretan War from libraries in Italy and Greece, but also from the British Library, while also unveiling a publication on the event, showcasing this material, which was salvaged by the Venetians who took their archives back to Italy when they abandoned Candia.
The initiative was inspired by the 350th anniversary of the city’s fall and also included a cultural festival in the Cretan city last summer.