Tour of the Monuments

Venetian Harbour of Chania


During the Venetian and Turkish rule, Chania had a fairly developed trade and shipping. Not only the import, but also the export of products and various articles was remarkable. Corresponding to the movement of trade was that of shipping, although relatively few ships operated due to the lack of a wide and safe harbor. From then on, it was generally accepted that the open bay of Chania, exposed to weather conditions, was not particularly suitable for a port. In fact, the natural port of Souda served relevant needs quite satisfactorily. With the capture of the city by the Genoese, the need to create a port was once again confirmed and thus the local authorities were obliged to start actions for its construction. During the Venetian rule, in 1302, the matter was put to the government by Rector Marino Gradenigo and he finally accepted the proposal.

The harbor was first built between 1320 and 1356, when requests for repairs from the city’s agencies began. A major problem was the fact that the harbor was unsuitable and that its eastern basin suffered from siltation created by rainwater or sewage. The ships came and left in a port that was small and relatively shallow and vulnerable to the north and west winds. Thus, the officials’ reports often mention the work being carried out, but also the need to clean and dredge the eastern main basin.

After the revolution of Agios Titos in 1363/64, the port was abandoned and that of Heraklion was used, since Rethymnon had similar problems. During the Venetian rule, in 1515, there is a reference to the dredging of the basin in the Chanio port and the construction of a wall with ramparts along the jetty, which is founded on a series of reefs that made the port inaccessible to ships.

But in 1645 the city falls into the hands of the Turks after a siege. As is known, the conquest of Crete was completed in 1669, after a 25-year war, with the capture of Khandaka, Heraklion. The new conquerors did not show much interest in the maintenance of the port of Chania, which was left completely abandoned. It was not repaired or maintained, with the eastern basin of the port remaining virtually useless throughout the Turkish occupation.

During the years 1831-1841, Crete was granted to the Viceroy of Egypt Mehmet Ali in exchange for the services he rendered to the Sultan during the Revolution of 1821 in Crete and the Peloponnese. Then the value of the port is recognized and how much it can help to improve the local economy. Mehmet Ali is said to have instructed Mustafa Pasha to clean the Chania harbor basin, repair the jetty and build the Lighthouse. Indeed, repairs were carried out to the jetty and dredging of its basin, works which cost (in 1838) 1,146,000 grosci.

Since the years of the Cretan State, the development of the port has been gradually expanding, which has been completed in recent years. In an old publication about the city of Chania at that time, it is mentioned that “The city has mostly cobbled and narrow streets, a small square of Mavrovounia Kalumeni (formerly Sandrivani) and a paved waterfront. The port of Chania is small and relatively shallow, accepting steamships of small capacity in its waters, and is very vulnerable to attack by north and west winds. At its entrance, on the left as far as the diver is concerned, there is a lighthouse with a stationary white light visible from a distance of 12 miles…”.


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Venizelio Conservatory

The Venizelio Conservatory of Chania is located on Nikiforo Fokas Street and is housed in a privately owned neoclassical building founded in 1931 at the expense of Elena Venizelou. It has a theater hall, with a stage and a balcony, with a capacity of about 300 seats and belongs to the “Association for the dissemination of Fine Arts in Crete”. Today it hosts DI.PE.THE. of Crete and the mixed Choir of Chania.