Chania Splantzia Square

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Location: Town

Splantzia Square, the Turkish quarter, can be found in the heart of the Old Town. Being one of the most historic places in Chania, it has been renamed "1821 Square" in honor of the events that took place there during the Greek War of Independence.
The rich history of the place dates back to the times of the Venetian occupation (1205-1669), when it was called Ponte dei Viari — a name that referred to a bridge connecting the eastern gate of the Kasteli fortress with the present-day Daskalogianni Street. Due to its proximity to the port, the area around Splantzia was one of the most popular places to stay at the time.

The Church of St. Catherine and St. John the Hermit
Hidden in the picturesque alleys that lead to Splantzia, this chapel is estimated to have been erected in the second half of the 16th century. What makes it stand out is its distinctive late Gothic architectural features. During the Turkish rule (1669-1898), it was initially converted into a bakery and then into a machine shop.

The Church of Agios Nikolaos
One of the first landmarks visitors will notice on the square itself is the church of Agios Nikolaos, which was built around 1320. At first, it used to be the main church of a Dominican monastery. Later on, the Turks built a 40-meter-tall minaret and turned it into a mosque, renaming it Houghiar Tzamissi (the Sovereign’s Mosque). It started operating again as an Orthodox Christian church in 1928 and, currently, it is the only temple in Greece where you will find both a bell tower and a minaret.

The Church of St. Rocco
On the opposite side of the square stands another Venetian church, dedicated to Saint Rocco. It was constructed in 1630, probably after an outbreak of the plague, as Saint Rocco was considered to be the one protecting the city of Chania from this deadly disease. In the Ottoman times, it functioned as a military guardhouse, while, during the short-lived period of the Cretan State (1898-1913), it was used as a gendarmerie station. Today, it houses temporary art exhibitions.

The plane tree
After 1669, Splantzia continued to be the social and political hub of Chania. An enormous plane tree stood in its very center, and various prominent personalities would gather in the elegant Arabian kiosk that had been built beneath it. Though the kiosk has been demolished, the plane tree still survives. During the years of the Ottoman occupation, Greeks who had fought for the independence of Crete were executed or tortured here, and a memorial plaque has been placed on the spot to commemorate these events.

The Venetian Aqueduct
The area used to have abundant groundwater, which is why the Venetians constructed an underground aqueduct that could supply the entire town of Chania with water for at least 6 months. The water tank was abandoned when the fountain ran out of water. Today, it houses a tavern serving traditional Cretan recipes.

The Ottoman Font
Archaeological excavations have also revealed an Ottoman font, which can be reached by climbing down a flight of 27 steps. This underground cistern belonged to Houghiar Tzamissi, and Muslims used it to wash their feet before entering the mosque. It is a highly impressive monument with sculptural decorations, connected to the Venetian aqueduct. Now it has been renovated and is open to the public.

Splantzia Square also played a crucial role during the early 20th century, since it received numerous refugees from Asia Minor, while many of its historic buildings were destroyed as a result of bombardments during the Second World War.
It is a unique place with great cultural and historical value. It combines Venetian and Ottoman architectural elements, as many Venetian buildings were later modified according to the Ottoman style of the time. Thus, it is a perfect example of the multicultural historical background of Chania Town.
Although it is not as popular as the Venetian port, the area has been gaining more and more attention over the past few years and is now developing rapidly. Many old mansions have been renovated and several cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and small hotels have opened in the vicinity. Becoming a popular hangout for the local youth, the square has emerged as an important part of the alternative nightlife scene of Chania.



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