The Museum of History of Crete was established
in 1953; it is housed in the Kalokairinos' Mansion, a building of 1870
which replaced an older one. The building was designed by the well known
Greek architect Lyssandros Kaftantzoglou. On the 25th of August 1898,
it was set in fire by the Ottomans and collapsed. In 1903 it was rebuilt,
this time designed by K. Tsantirakis (these designs are exhibited in
the Museum), who respected the previous form of the building. Today,
it has been declared Monument of History and Work of Art with conservation
status by the Greek Ministry of Culture.
The building is a two-storeyed construction, an excellent sample of
Neoclassic architecture, with a monumental entrance. The interior is
decorated with friezes at the upper part of the walls, with themes taken
from the Greek Mythology and Homer. The Museum houses rich collections
of exhibits referring to various historic periods; being orientated in
more recent periods, this Museum plays an equally important role to that
of the Archaeological Museum, as both complete the history of Crete.
The exhibitions cover 5 thematic unities:
A. The Byzantine and Medieval collection contains Byzantine, Venetian
and Ottoman sculptures, inscriptions, wall paintings (frescoes) of the
13th -16th centuries, ritual artefacts and sacerdotal vestments, fine
woodcarved items, coins, jewels and miniatures of the Byzantine and
and Venetian periods; undoubtedly, one of the most important exhibits
here is the painting of Domenico Theotocopoulos ("El Greco"), "View of
the Mont and the Monastery of Sinah", created in 1570 A.D.
B. The historic collection contains souvenirs of the important Cretan
revolutions of 1821 and 1866, but also of all the revolts of Cretan people
against the Ottoman domination, during the 19th century; there are also
souvenirs of the period of the autonomus Cretan State (1898-1913). There
are displayed weapons, flags and banners, portraits of Cretan heros,
jewels, firniture of the period, costumes, maps and other souvenirs.
There are also displayed important historic documents and photographs.
C. The Folk Colletion icludes numerous samples of the tratidional folk
art of Crete: there are exhibited costumes, hand woven textiles, tools
for weaving, embroideries and laces, local costumes and cloths, shoes,
jewels, music instuments etc. A full reconstruction of a typical traditional
country house is one of the most interesting exhibits of this section.
D. A hall of the Museum is dedicated to the famous Cretan author Nikos
Kazantzakis; there are displayed his desk and library, as well as personal
items, souvenirs and manuscripts of many works of the author.
E. A hall of the Museum is kept for Emmanuel Tsouderos, the Cretan Prime
Minister of Greece during the "Battle of Crete"; there are exhibited
his desk and library, personal items, souvenirs and relative etchings,
maps, rare books and a great collection of Cretan stamps.
The Museum is very active; it has a good Library on Cretology, it organises
educational programs in co-operation with the 13th Ephorate of Byzantine
Antiquities, with the theme: "Introduction to the technique of the Byzantine
Icons". Apart from these activities there are also International Conferences,
lectures and editions of the Society of Cretan Historic Studies, the suprvisor
of the Museum.