The Bembo Fountain and Turkish Sebil
The Turkish sebil
At the top of the market (1866 Street) is Kornarou Square. Right in front of you is the Sebil of Haci Ibrahim Agha. A sebil was a public fountain in the street, constructed by an eminent Turk, where passers-by could quench their thirst with clean water and bless the builder. The Byzantines had phiale fountains for the same purpose. If it is easy to find a cool glass of water today, it was not always so. In former times wayfarers would have found it difficult, as running drinking water was rare, particularly in Heraklion.
The best-made and most beautiful sebil was at the top of the market, in Kornarou Square. Hatzi Ibrahim Agha, who paid for its construction, desired snow to be brought from Mount Psiloritis in the summer, so the sebil would offer ice-cold water to the thirsty people of Heraklion.
Today the sebil has been converted into a café, one of the most picturesque in Heraklion, where visitors can sit to rest and cool off with a soft drink or a coffee, always accompanied by cold water - from the refrigerator.
Next to the sebil, the monumental Bembo Fountain is preserved in good condition. It is named after the Venetian Provveditor General (governor) of Heraklion Gianmatteo Bembo, who built it in 1552-54. It was the first time that the people of Heraklion saw running water in the city, showing how important the fountain was.
The fountain consists of a spout and a small, rectangular basin. Over the spout is set the headless statue of a Roman official from the Ierapetra area in southeast Crete, while the whole monument is decorated with Venetian family coats of arms.