Chania Arsenals

The Venetian shipyards in Chania

Continue east along the cobbled pavement of the Venetian harbour and you will come to the Venetian shipyards, also known as the arsenals or “tarsanades”. These are important Venetian structures of the late 15th century with arched fronts.

Chania arsenals
The Chania arsenals with the Madares or White Mountains in the background

The Venetian fleet dominated the Mediterranean. Among the main stations on the maritime trading routes of the Eastern Mediterranean were the harbours of Crete, where the Venetian merchant fleet and navy could stop for supplies and repairs.

The arsenals (“arsenali” in Italian) or shipyards were places for shipbuilding and ship repair. They are long, narrow structures (50 metres long and 9 metres wide) with high vaulted roofs (averaging 10 metres in height), which originally had wooden doors. They were open on the side facing the sea so that ships could enter easily, but after the construction of the quay in the early 20th century, access from the sea is no longer possible.

During the period of Venetian rule in Chania there were 23 shipyards in two complexes: five shipyards on the east and 15 on the north side of the harbour. Today only nine arsenals remain, some of them used as exhibition and conference halls.

The arsenals have been used for a variety of purposes in the past, housing a Christian school in 1872, a theatre in 1892, a municipal hospital from 1923, and Chania Town Hall from 1928 to 1941.

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