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Greece » Crete » Heraklion Prefecture » Heraklion Sightseeing » Museum of History of Crete
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Museum of History of Crete

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.
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