Chania History

The town of Chania is built on the site of the ancient Kidonia, one of the most important cities of Crete according to Homer. The surviving architectural remains of the city belong to large size buildings from the Mycenaean times. During the post-Mycenaean times, the city flourished greatly and remained such until the Roman era, when August Caesar declared Kidonia an independent town. Many ancient towns and temples had been constructed in the region, such as the temple of Asklepios in Lissos. In 823 AC, the city was surrendered to the Saracens and in 828 AC, it was destroyed like many Cretan cities.

In 961 AC, the Byzantines rebuilt the entire city using all the expendable material that was left from the ruins. To protect the city, they built a fortress around the hill, known as Kasteli. However, the town started declining, and from that period only some parts of the fortress walls survive to this day.

In 1204 AD, Chania was occupied by the Venetians who fortified the town around Kasteli fortress and restored the ruined city. During the four-century presence, Venetians built their catholic cathedral inside the castle and many elegant mansions. However, their strong fleet was soon attacked by the Genouates and they were defeated. As a result, they remained for some years in Chania but before they left the burned the whole town. The Venetians came back and rebuilt the entire city with a stronger wall around the city of Chania. The following years, Chania flourished greatly with the construction of many elegant buildings and houses according to the Venetian architecture.

This was a very prosperous period in the history of Chania, as it gave an impulse to trade and culture. Elegant mansions were constructed and the connection with Europe through Venice lead to the development of arts and literature. The famous painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos, also known as El Greco, was born at that time.

In 1645, after two months of siege, the town was surrendered to the Turks and the construction of the city changed as all Catholic churches were turned to mosques. After many battles and revolutionary acts from the inhabitants of Crete against the Turkish fleet the island was declared autonomous in 1897 and became the capital of the Cretan state.

In 1913, Crete was reunited with the rest of Greece after the many efforts of Eleftherios Venizelos, governor of Crete and later prime minister of the country. The extensive damages from the constant attacks in Crete wiped out the traces of old periods in Chania. From the Mycenaean Kidonia, only a few relics have been found from excavations and ceramic signs. Today, a large part of the old town of Chania has survived from the Venetian and Turkish period. The Venetian port and the historical alleys with the tall mansions in Chania give a nostalgic atmosphere. The history of Chania had a huge cultural impact in the life of the Cretans.

Chania in World War II: Chania Town was the center of much activity during World War II. In fact, this charming town was forcibly occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

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