Chania Ottoman Baths

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Location: Town

Hammams were brought to Chania by the Ottomans of Asia Minor, as they constitute a very old Muslim tradition. Body hygiene was closely associated with religious worship and contemplation since, according to the Quran, only running water has purifying properties. They played an important role in Middle Eastern culture and served as places of body cleansing and social gathering.

Hammams began as structural elements attached to mosques and later evolved into monumental structural complexes, consisting of three interconnected basic rooms: the sιcaklιk (the hot room), the tepidarium (the warm room), and the soğukluk (the cold room). The sιcaklιk has a large dome fitted with small glass windows that let in a dim light. This room also contains a large marble stone at the center on which customers can lie and niches with fountains in the corners. This room is used for soaking up the steam and getting scrub massages. The tepidarium is for washing up with soap and water, while the soğukluk is for cooling down the body and letting the pores close. Customers could have a drink, usually tea, and, if there were private cubicles, they could take a nap there after the massage.

Hammams were not exclusive to men; they had separate quarters for men and women. They were a part of daily life and people celebrated there almost every special occasion, such as wedding preparations, holidays and the birth of children, with traditional ceremonies.

The Public Baths in Chania were built by the Turks after they took over the city in 1645. One of them, the Topana Hammam, is located on the corner of Zambeliou and Douka streets, in the northwestern part of the Old Town. It initially had six large semicircular domes marked by an absence of tympana, while another floor was added later on. The glass, bell-shaped skylights that decorate the dome are the only source of light besides the three arched windows on the northwest side. Its relatively simple and austere external architecture is typical of Turkish baths. Today, it is the property of the Ministry of Culture.

Another one is situated on Chalidon Street. Βuilt on the former site of the Venetian Monastery of St Clara, near a Roman bath with mosaic floors, it is an edifice boasting numerous small domes. There used to be an arcade around it, which was eventually demolished in 1941. It currently functions as a clothes shop, retaining its marvelous internal architecture, such as its elegant niches and the beautiful arches formed by the domes.

Moreover, there is a hammam on Katre Street, in the old aristocratic neighborhood of Kasteli. Surrounded by arched galleries, it also has a number of small domes, and the main hall is covered by a low dome without tympana. There used to be a second floor too, while part of its ancillary buildings has been destroyed. It now houses art exhibitions.



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