The Cathedral of Chania

Turn right off Skridlof Street into Halidon Street, the main road which crosses the old town from 1866 Square to Eleftherios Venizelos Square in the harbour. A few metres further down and on your right is the Cathedral of Chania, dedicated to Panagia Trimartyri (Virgin of the Three Martyrs), the patron saint of Chania.

cathedral in chania

The cathedral celebrates its feast-day on 21 November, the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin.

It is called “Trimartyri” because, while the central aisle is dedicated to the Virgin, the north aisle is dedicated to St Nicholas and the south aisle to the Three Hierarchs. It is not known when the first church was built, but it was definitely there in the Venetian period.

History of the Cathedral of Chania

The history of the cathedral in the Turkish period is particularly interesting. The Ottomans turned the church into a soap factory. The boiler for the soap ingredients was where the bell tower now stands. However, the icon of the Presentation of the Virgin was kept in a storeroom inside the church, with an oil-lamp always lit before it, on the sufferance of the Turkish Pasha of Chania.

In the mid-19th century a man called A. Tserkaris worked at the soap factory. Legend has it that the Virgin appeared to him in a vision and told him to leave, because she did not want her house to be a soap factory. Tserkaris left, taking the icon with him.

A little later, the child of Mustapha Naili Pasha accidentally fell into the well south of the church. In despair, Mustapha Pasha called upon the Virgin to save his child, in return for which he would give the church back to the Christians of Chania. The Virgin miraculously saved the child, the soap factory was handed over to the Christian community to build a new church, and Tserkaris returned the icon of the Presentation of the Virgin.

The cathedral had just been completed when it was damaged in the 1897 Revolution. It was restored at the expense of the Tsar of Russia, to make amends for the Russian bombardment of Akrotiri. The cathedral bell was also a gift from the Russian Tsar.

In the cathedral square stands a statue of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

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