Sights RETHYMNON (Town) CRETE - GTP + Greek Travel Pages

Location information

Listed 23 sub titles with search on: Sights for destination: "RETHYMNON Town CRETE".

Sights (23)

Castles, fortresses & fortifications


Tel: +30 28310 40150-6, 23653, 58842
Fax: +30 28310 40159, 58843
  The fortress of Rethymnon was built between 1573 and 1580 by the Venetians, for the protection of the city by the Turkish threat. It is starshaped with three gates and six bastions. The fortress enclosed the Commander' s house, the Counsellor' s house, barracks, stables, ammunition - storehouses, a cistern and private houses which were later destroyed. There was no systematic excavation on the site. Small-scale excavations have been conducted during the restoration works, in the course of which came to light remains of the ancient city.
  Some years earlier, the 13th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities effectuated works of restoration and consolidation. The architect D. Pikiones had completed a study concerning a new project of the fortezza: a theatre for representations of the medieval cretan plays, tourist accomodations etc. Today the Municipality of Rethymnon in collaboration with the competent services, suggests a restoration study which will bring the monument to its full advantage.
  The most important monuments and architectural complexes are:
  The Counsellors' residence. It is formed of a ground floor and a first floor with large rooms. It was an imposing building, and served during the ottoman occupation, as an official residence. The Italian Remaissance palaces served probably as the model for its construction.
  The Rector' s residence. It was an imposing complex. Today in ruins.
  The Cathedral. It was founded in 1583 and dedicated to St Nicolas. During the Ottoman occupation it was turned into a mosque of Sultan Ibrahim. It is a large square room with a cupola. The only remnants of it are the minaret' s base and the mihrab.
  Gunpownder-shorehouses. Inside the fortress there are two gunpowder-storehouses: They are rectangular buildings with vault and air-locks. The walls are thick with small doors and extra rooms for better safety.
  Ammunition-storehouse. The ground floor and the first floor are covered with vaults. Over the entrance of the ground floor there is an arched lintel. Three pillars supported the wooden floor of the first floor, where several parts of guns were stored.
  Possible Bishop' s Mansion. It is formed of two buildings: The larger, is a unified room covered with vaults, while the smaller is a latter addition. It is considered as the Bishop' s Mansion because of the Cathedral near by.

The Fortezza

  The new fortification of the building complex included a magnificent entrance gate, the Porta Guora, which led to the central square, where the superb public buildings such as the Loggia, the Rimondi Fountain and the sundial tower were situated. In 1571 Ulutz Ali devastated the wall during one of his raids. Thus it became absolutely vital to fortify the hill of Palaiokastro (Old Castle) and to relocate the entire city there. Many problems had to be solved before the Fortezza was finally built during the period between 1573 and 1578. However, the city was never transferred to the safe area within the walls.
  Two years after the destruction, on September 1573, the Rector Alvise Lando laid the foundation stone of the castle, which was to be built according to the drafts of Sforza Palavicini. After a large number of modifications, the fortress was finally completed in 1590. The general draft of the fortress provided new forms of defence, which had become necessary, since gunpowder had come into use: The polygonal ground plan included bastions whilst the walls were wider and inclined. In reality however, due to the morphology of the land only three bastions could be built to the South and to the East, while the north wall formed three peaks. In general the draft of the fortification wall was not the best possible, since it limited defensive abilities. The rocky surface, which impeded an appropriate construction, the lack of a moat, the limited free space around the fortress resulting from the inhabitants' refusal to demolish their houses were some of the basic factors, which limited successful defensive action. Contrary to that the infrastructure of the interior space was probably well planned: Public buildings were situated at a distance from the wall, the ammunition storerooms were housed at the safe north side, and a square formed the centre of the fortress. The interior of the fortress accommodated the following basic buildings: the storeroom of the artillery, where canons and weapons were kept, the residence of the Councillors, where one of the city's two Venetian councillors lived, the residence of the Rector, which represented a luxurious, magnificent building in the central square of the fortress.
  West of the central square and opposite the cathedral the Rector's residential premises were built, part of which have been preserved up to today. The building was founded in 1575 and completed in 1582, and it was first occupied by the Rector Anzolo Barocci. He continued to modify the building up until 1584, because he considered it to be too high and exposed on the hill of Aghios Athanassios, in the west of the city. The imposing and luxurious style of the building is testified to in written records of that time referring to 49 doors, 81 windows, two staircases as well as galleries. Unfortunately, none of the buildings of this complex could be preserved, except for part of the prison, which Barocci had built east of the main residence, and for the cathedral, which was situated opposite the remarkable residential complex of buildings and was dedicated to Aghios Nikolaos. The temple of Sultan Ibrahim was built on the ruins of the cathedral of San Nicolo during the Turkish occupation. New elements such as the large semi-circular dome, the apse of Michrab in the centre of the southeastern side as well as the minaret, which was built next to the entrance, characterised the transformation of the cathedral into a Muslim temple.

This text is cited Jan 2004 from the Tourism Promotion Committee of Rethymno Prefecture URL below, which contains images.

  The giant Fortezza dominates Rethimnon, and is reputed to be the largest Venetian castle ever built. Designed to shelter the entire population, it included a church, barracks, a hospital, and storerooms.
  The Venetians built the Fortezza during a transitional period in military history. In the fifteenth century, armies began using gunpowder in military activities and this prompted the designing of forts which could withstand this type of attack. The Venetians in Rethimnon did not have adequate funds to complete the Fortezza according to the new formula for defensive structures. They allowed the houses of the town to remain close to the walls, leaving no distancing space or room for a moat. This, as well as other factors, including a cholera epidemic in the fort, led to a rather easy victory for the Turkish invaders in 1645.

  Sites of the Fortress:
Main Gate: The main gate is between the Agios Pavlos and the Agios Nikolaos Bastions that were its protectors. The gate is a tunnel going through the walls, wide and high enough to allow for movement of troops, wagons and artillery.
Artillery Magazine: The Artillery Magazine is the first building on your right as you enter the Fortezza. The bottom floor was used to store the cannons while small arms were kept on the second floor. The flat roofs of the buildings collected rainwater which was then piped to the cisterns. Evidence of the aqueduct system can be seen on the Artillery Magazine.
Cisterns: There were many cisterns in the fort. The flat roofs gathered the water and pipes conducted it to the cisterns. One of the better examples of this is in the Agios Ilias Bastion. It is on the southeast point of the fort, to the left of the artillery magazine (near the open air theatre). This chamber is open and is one of the fort's more interesting sights.
Bishop's Palace: There is some question as to whether this actually was the bishop's quarters, since what remains does not resemble any description of the bishop's palace.
Ibrahim Han Mosque: After a Turkish attack destroyed the cathedral of the city, the Venetians decided to build the new one inside the Fortezza. The Turks converted it to a mosque after they captured Rethimnon and named it after their sultan. The mihrab (prayer niche that points to Mecca) is on the east wall.
Governor's Residence: The original building was very large, but very little of it has survived.
Powder Magazines: Two of three magazines remain. They were located in remote places in the fort. The very thick walls were constructed to withstand cannonball fire and with ventilation holes to keep the powder dry.
Councillor's Residence: This is where one of the two counsellors lived. Their job was to control the residents of Rethimnon. Evidence of a Turkish bath is in the upper northwest corner.
Storerooms: The Venetians put the storerooms at the northern wall to be safer from attack. There were underground storage rooms as well as a level above ground. Notice the ventilation holes in the walls. The passage to the gate lies in the middle of these rooms.
Unidentified Buildings: Archaeologist know little about these buildings. The cement trench on the east side dates from World War II and led into a holding room for Cretan resistance fighters whom the Nazis eventually executed.
Civilian Living Quarters: The occupants of these buildings were poor and construction was therefore not strong, so, little remains of the houses.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.


Private Buildings

  Not only did the Venetian architecture prevail in public buildings but attempts were also made on a similar line in the private building sector. Admittedly, private houses and mansions in the cities and in the countryside could by no means be compared with small Venetian palaces, despite the attempts that were made in that direction, due to economic reasons, but most of all because of the dominant traditional Cretan architecture. Particularly with common private houses the architecture of the Renaissance of western countries was expressed mainly in the faηade and more precisely in the doorframe of the entrance. These doorframes, some of which were held simple, others superbly ornamented with pilasters, columns and fine entablatures, represented all architectural orders of the Renaissance: Doric, Ionian, Corinthian and mixed.
The buildings of the city of Rethymno: Private houses in the Venetian quarters of Rethymno, of both simple and luxurious style, still decorate the alleys and streets of the old town up to the present day. As already mentioned, the influence of Renaissance architecture was restricted to the decoration of doorframes, which sometimes showed a rectilinear or semi-circular lintel usually depicting an anthemion in the arch.
The mansion at 154, Arkadiou Street: This lavish mansion was built during the last years of Venetian occupation. An inscription in both Greek and Turkish writing as well as the date 1844 can be observed; the date probably refers to the restoration of the building. The doorframe with its Doric columns and its pediment is of particular beauty.
Doorframe of the residence at 13, Klidis Street: Doorframes often display ornaments in the triangular space beside the semi-circular pediment, as is the case in this building, where the interesting motif of naked children hunting birds is depicted. In the crown of the doorframe with its Corinthian capitals the following inscription can be seen: QUI SPERAT IN DEO SUBLEVABITUR (He who believes in God will be comforted).
Doorframe of the residence at 48, Arkadiou Street: This is one of the most impressive doorframes in the town of Rethymno displaying pilasters with Corinthian capitals and columns with capitals influenced by the Gothic order. Both triangular sides of the semi-circular lintel are ornamented with cupids. The relief of an acanthus in the crown of the arch is also very impressive.
Doorframe of the residence at 30, Vernardou Street: This interesting doorframe displays a Latin inscription dated 1607 as well as the coat of arms of the Clodio family.

This text is cited Nov 2003 from the Tourism Promotion Committee of Rethymno Prefecture URL below, which contains images.

Venetian door (48 Akadiou street)

Mansion (50 Arkadiou Street)

Ornate balcony (64 Arkadiou street)

Venetian Loggia

The Loggia, situated in the centre of the city, was a magnificent building, where the nobility met to discuss political and economic issues. It dates back to the 16th century and was built according to the plans of the famous Venetian architect Michele Sanmicheli. The well-preserved building has a square ground plan with three vaulted sides (the west side is not vaulted). It is built of regular sized stones and the projections of the cornice are particularly beautiful. Originally the building was open and had a four-sided roof, qualities which do not apply any more today.

This extract is cited Jan 2004 from the Tourism Promotion Committee of Rethymno Prefecture URL below, which contains image.

  The sixteenth century Venetian Loggia on the corner has survived in almost perfect shape. The Loggia was an intricate part of Venetian social life providing space for both entertainment and business. Notice the two gargoyles with human faces on the west wall. Each of the three visible walls have three equal semi-circular arches with the middle arch providing an entrance at the ground level. The building is closed, as the city plans to renovate its interior.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.

Turkish Primary School

Beside the church is the entrance to the Turkish primary school, which is still a primary school (Greek). The double arched doorway is a replica of the Fortezza entrance but with ornate relief of vines, lions, mosques and a crescent moon. The other door of the school (west side) has an inscription attesting to the girl's school founded there in 1796. In the north end of the school yard there is a Turkish grave, which is in very good condition, of a hero of the Battle of Rethimnon. Also the school yard has a good view of the Neratze Mosque and its minaret.

This text is cited Jan 2004 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains image.

Religious monuments

Neratze Mosque

  The city holds public concerts in this building. It was once the church of Santa Maria, later Agios Nikolaos. The east and north wall of the mosque are the original parts of the Santa Maria Church as is the ornate portal with its Corinthian columns and arched entrance. The Turks converted it to a mosque in 1657. The mosque was the largest and richest in Rethimnon and the minaret was designed to reflect this. The chapel of the Santa Maria Church has an inscription indicating its use as a library by the Muslim clergy. The church, reconsecrated after the Muslims left Crete, became Agios Nikolaos, but it never regained its status as a place of worship.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.

During Venetian occupation the mosque Neratzes, which today is used as a music school, was the Augustinian church of the Holy Virgin. In 1657 the Turks transformed it into the mosque Gazi Housein or Neratze, and in 1890 they added a large minaret with two galleries, which was built from the famous stones from the village of Alfa. The chapel of the Holy Virgin, situated at its west side and dedicated to the Body of Christ, was also transformed into a seminary. Outstanding elements of this building are the doorframe and the three domes.

This extract is cited Jan 2004 from the Tourism Promotion Committee of Rethymno Prefecture URL below, which contains images.

Valide Sultana Mosque

  Looking up, you will notice the Valide Sultana Mosque (named after the Sultan's mother), inaccessible because the city has surrounded it, but still adding to the oriental appearance of Rethimnon.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.

Kara Musa Mosque

  At one time this site was the monastery of Santa Barbara. The Turks converted it to a mosque after the Battle of Rethimnon and named it after the commander of their naval forces. The mosque has still its mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca. There is also a mausoleum in front of the mosque. There is a fine Turkish fountain outside the mosque on the front facing the street, and another inside facing the mosque.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.

Veli Pasha Mosque

  The mosque is thought to be built on top of the Venetian church of Agios Onoufrios. The remains of the Turkish monastery that surrounded it are still evident. The mosque has some structurally unique features such as the main doorway, and its minaret is the oldest in Rethimnon (1789). At present the mosque is being renovated.

San Francesco Venetian church

This church belonged to a monastery run by Franciscan monks. Apart from the temple two chapels have been preserved which are situated east of the church. The doorframe of the entrance is ornamented with capitals of various orders and deserves particular attention.

  This important Venetian monument was a single-aisled, wooden-roofed basilica with certain parts of the church, (specifically: the floor, the windows, and the main door), being of a later date. Its interior reveals such detail and precision in workmanship that it is undoubtedly that of master craftsmen. The impressive ornate northern doorway displays these skills; however, the church is closed for renovations.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains image.


Guora Gate

  The Guora Gate, is the only remnant of the Venetian city wall. Although unimpressive-looking, its name was once the Great Door. The busy market streets surround the gate today.


Rimondi Fountain

A. Rimondi, the Rector of the city, built the famous Rimondi Fountain, which is situated at present day Platanos Square, formerly the centre of Venetian city life, in 1626. The water runs from three spouts in the shape of a lion's head into three sinks. Three small, fluted columns, ornamented with Corinthian capitals are "standing" on the sinks. Above the capitals an entablature can be observed, the middle part of which displays four projections in the shape of the leaves of the acanthus exactly above the columns. Furthermore in this section the words LIBERALITATIS and FONTES are inscribed.

This extract is cited Jan 2004 from the Tourism Promotion Committee of Rethymno Prefecture URL below, which contains image.


Venetian Mansion

This sixteenth century house (at Arkadiou street, 154) is the largest Venetian home in Rethimnon. The date over the door refers to renovations. The carved wooden gutter is one of its special features.


Odos Arkadiou

  The lovely Venetian homes with their decorative doorways alert you to its importance during that era. The row of shops and houses in front of Odos Arkadiou (north side) were built during the Turkish occupation. Before this, these impressive buildings on Arkadiou were almost at the water's edge.

This text is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.

Souliou Street

  This was once an important commercial area. You can still see a little evidence of this in the shops. Shoe manufacturing and sales went on here during the Turkish era.

You are able to search for more information in greater and/or surrounding areas by choosing one of the titles below and clicking on "more".

GTP Headlines

Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.

Subscribe now!

Ferry Departures