Heraklion Historical Museum

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Location: Town
Don't miss: Museums guide (free admission dates and other useful info)

The Historical Museum of Crete was founded in 1953 by the Society for Cretan Historical Studies. Its building was donated by the estate of Andreas Kalokairinos, who built it in 1903 and whose expressed desire was to see his home turned into a museum.

The purpose of the museum is to preserve and present Crete’s cultural tradition starting from the early Byzantine period and continuing up to the modern day. In a way, it can be seen as a “sequel” to the Archaeological Museum, whose collection covers the period up to the 4th Century, which is when this museum’s collection kicks off.

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Top Tours and activities

  • Hop on Hop off Bus Sightseeing Tour

    Category: Hop On Hop Off

    Discover the history and architecture of Heraklion and admire the views from the top of a double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus with a ticket valid for 48 hours.

    2 days Map
    from € 15.00
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More about the Historical Museum

In the 25 rooms of the museum that cover 1,500 square meters, the various collections present the historical course of Crete from the early days of Christianity up to the Second World War and beyond. This includes periods of Roman/Byzantine, Arabic, Venetian, and Ottoman control, as well as a brief period of Cretan autonomy before its integration into Greece.

The centerpiece of the first room of the museum is a reconstruction of 17th-century Heraklion Town, just before the 21-year Ottoman siege. An interesting part of the museum’s exhibit is its collection of ceramics and sculptures, which present an interesting contrast to the more well-known respective items of Ancient Greece, as well as an evolution of arts and handicrafts through time.

There is also a rich numismatic collection, where gold coins depicting Emperor Basil II meet those bearing the monogram of Sultan Mahmud II, silver coins in the name of Doge Andrea Gritti, or banknotes representing bonds issued during the 1905 revolution at Theriso, led by Eleftherios Venizelos.

The arts are especially revered here, with an extensive collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine works ranging from carefully crafted manuscripts to wooden crucifixes and religious icons painted with devotion, as well as other creations that display the interaction of these Orthodox styles with those of the Venetians and Ottomans who later took control of the island.

Special mention must be made of Crete’s most famous painter, the exceptional El Greco, born Domenikos Theotokopoulos. Theotokopoulos was born in Fodele, near Heraklion, where he spent his early days before moving to Venice, Rome, and Toledo. Throughout his life, he developed and expanded his artistic vocabulary, but he never lost touch with his formative years, where he began by painting icons.

The section on Ottoman Crete is of high importance, as it houses artifacts that relate to the Cretan Muslims, a religious minority that at some point made up almost half of the island. Two sections compare Turkish murals with Greek revolutionary flags branded “Union or Death”, while also presenting a digital collection of newspapers and articles dating to the era of the autonomous Cretan State (1898-1913), regarding the so-called Cretan Question.

The more modern eras presented by the museum include the period of World War II and the famous Battle of Crete in 1941, when the island was the setting for the Greek and Allied final stand against the German invasion. The collection includes objects from the battles and the occupation in general , as well as personal items of Emmanouil Tsouderos, the Cretan Banker who served as Greece’s Prime Minister-in-Exile during the Axis Occupation.

One of the museum’s most prized collections is the section dedicated to and directly donated by the monumental Greek author, Nikos Kazantzakis. The man behind “Zorba the Greek” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” gave most of his furniture and other items, including manuscripts and first-edition printings of his works in many languages. Note that the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis is a couple hundred meters from this museum.

The Ethnographic Collection holds numerous items gathered from villages all over Crete, presenting what everyday life would have been like for the vast majority of Cretans during the 19th and 20th Centuries, including household items and the utensils they used in their work as well as in important religious ceremonies and life events.

Many of the rooms hold interactive digital displays, which offer additional information on the artifacts of the museum, with some even presenting e-books of important historical texts.

Temporary exhibits, related to the history of Crete, are also occasionally held. In addition, the museum hosts various cultural events, as well as historical and scientific conferences, or even special education programmes, mostly directed towards school children.

Finally, a library, a gift shop, and a small cafe can be found on the museum's premises.

Opening hours
Summer Season (01/04-27/10): Monday - Sunday: 09:00-17:00
Winter Season (29/10-31/03): Monday -Friday: 09:00-15:30; Saturday: 10:00-16:00; Closed on Sundays-16:00; Closed on Sundays

Official website: www.historical-museum.gr



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