Historical Museum of Crete
The Crete Historical Museum in Heraklion is at 27 Sofokli Venizelou Avenue, the coast road.
The Historical Museum is housed in a Neoclassical building dating to 1903 which was owned by Andreas Kalokairinos. He granted it to the Society of Cretan Historical Studies to be turned into a museum in 1952.
The Historical Museum of Crete, or Historical Museum of Heraklion is open Monday to Saturday, from 09.00 to 17.00. It is shut on Sundays and holidays.
Valuable historical relics of Crete, from the First Byzantine period (330 AD) to World War II, are displayed in an enlightening manner in its 22 rooms, covering an area of 1,500 square metres.
Main exhibits in the Historical Museum
Visitors begin their tour of the Historical Museum in the Andreas G. Kalokairinos Room, which presents an overview of Cretan history via representative exhibits from all the collections and chronological periods.
The main exhibit is the 4 x 4 metre model of the city of Chandax (Heraklion) in the mid-17th century, at the peak of its power in Venetian times. Visitors can activate forty different spotlights picking out the most important monuments
The other rooms of the Historical Museum house:
the Ceramics and Sculpture Collections
the rich Numismatic Collection, charting all phases of Cretan economic history from the early Christian period to the 20th century.
the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Collection, where visitors can follow the development of art and come to realise the dynamic co-existence of the native Christian Orthodox population with the Ottoman and Venetian overlords. The crowning exhibits in this section are two paintings by Domenicos Theotokopoulos: The Baptism of Christ (1567) and View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine (1570), which are the only works by the artist on display on Crete.
Domenicos Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco, was born, bred and studied icon-painting in Heraklion, at a time when the city was the intellectual and artistic centre of the island, blending elements of the Italian Renaissance with Byzantine tradition. The restless and ambitious painter travelled to Venice, Rome and finally Spain, where he continued to study his art to the very end. His unique personal style is the result of his collected experiences and intense artistic personality.
Modern and contemporary Cretan history is presented in four phases:
- the period of Ottoman Rule, with emphasis on the Muslim presence on Crete.
- the period of revolutionary upheaval in the 19th century, ending with the Union of Crete with Greece.
- the Inter-War Years
- World War II (the war between Greece and Italy, the Battle of Crete and the National Resistance). Audiovisual material is used here in an attempt to recreate the environment during battles and bombardments.
There follow the Nikos Kazantzakis rooms, with the author's study and library from his house in Antibes, France.
the Ethnographic Collection, presenting life in Crete through the centuries (olive growing and viniculture, cereal cultivation, animal husbandry, birth, baptism, marriage, folk architecture, reconstructed interior of a Cretan village house).
The Historical Museum of Heraklion has its own website: Historical Museum of Crete