The medieval town of Hania was given its final character by the Venetian conquerors in 1252, which was preserved after Hania was seized by the Turks in 1669. After the “Concession of Hania”, where it was mentioned that the Venetian colonists had the obligation to rebuild the town, they completed and repaired the already existing wall of Kasteli and inside its wall they created the first nucleus of the town based on Western building models. They marked out the official road, Corso, (today’s Kanevaro Street), that crossed Kasteli from east to west, dividing it into two parts. They built the Cathedral (Duomo) of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the Palace of the Rector and the mansions of the Venetian feudalists. Across Corso they marked out other smaller roads parallel to each other, where they built their houses. The walls of Kasteli had four gates. The two central ones, on the western and eastern edge of Corso, were totally destroyed by bombing during the Second World War (1941). One of the two smaller gates was on the southern part where Katre Street is today and the other gate was on the northern part where the steps that are next to the building that houses the Polytechnic of Crete. With the development of commerce and navigation the town spreads out beyond the walls of Kasteli. For security reasons the construction of broader walls is decided; which was begun in 1538 by the architect Michele Sammichelli. With the new walls that were constructed to encompass the wider town, the walls of Kasteli became completely redundant which resulted in its towers being turned into dwellings, whilst on its middle towers the foundations of many other dwellings were laid. Its external part was covered, to a great extent, by other buildings, which today obstructs us from seeing the outline of the inner wall in its entirety.
The new walls were given a square shape and each one of its four corners was fortified by a bastion (baloardo); on the northwestern corner the San Salvatore or Gritti bastion was built, on the south-western corner the bastion of San Dimitri or Sciavo, on the northeastern corner the bastion of Sabbionara or Mocenigo. In these internal defences small squares (piazza bases) were fashioned for the placement of cannons. The bastions of Sabbionara (on the southern part), Santa Lucia (on the western) and San Dimitri (on the eastern part) were fortified from the outside with parotides (orrechioni). In the middle of the southern part (on the left as one enters the Municipal Market) a platform was constructed and was named the bastion Retimiota or de San Giovanni or Della Misericordia. Internally,on the East and West, two low squares were formed. Towards the interior of the bastion, as much towards other parts of the middle towers, 8 minor bastions of large (cavalier) or small (cavalierotti) shape were placed. The wall had three gates – the Rethymnon Gate (porta Retimiota) on the southern middle tower west of the platform; the Sabbionara Gate (the gate of sand in Nikiforos Fokas Street) on the eastern middle tower, and the auxiliary San Salvatore Gate (entrance from Theotokopoulos Street), which opened on to the corresponding bastion. Externally, on the periphery of the walls, a trench was dug and a retaining wall was constructed (contrascarpa) in order to hold the soil. Only the bastion of Sabbionara did not have a trench as it went as far as the sea. After the Venetians were defeated by the Turks, in 1645, the cracks that were made during the siege were repaired. The cracks had been made in the bastion of San Dimitri and in the Sabbionara Gate by the Turks when they entered the town. This gate was reconstructed, its dimensions were changed and it was named Koum-kapi. The Rethymniotiki Gate was also repaired and was named Kale-Kapissi.
What finally determined the decision of the Venetians to build the Port of Hania was the capture of the town by the Venetian navy in 1293. The construction went through various stages and lasted approximately 300 years; it consisted of the deepening of the gulf at the breakwater, the lighthouse and the strong guardhouses in the arm of the lighthouse. As a consequence of the increasing Turkish threat the Venetian navy was reinforced and shipyards were constructed (which were commenced in 1526 and completed in 1599) for the maintenance of the naval fleet that remained in the harbourur of Hania. The northern part of the shipyards was open towards the sea, whilst the southern part was closed and had a small door, two rectangular windows and a round window which were interconnected by archways. In the south the gate and the shipyards were connected by a Venetian gateway which was destroyed in the middle of the 20th century. During the Turkish occupation the shipyards were neglected and started to decay. Out of the 17 shipyards that existed originally, only 7 are standing today, with various alterations such as the closing of the northern part and new partitions that have been adapted for contemporary use. Beginning our stroll from the north-western part of the harbour, we come to the Firka Fortress. This area was used as a residence for the farsighted Venetians as well as being used as a barracks. During the Turkish occupation, it operated as a barracks and prison. On the 1st of December 1913, the Greek flag was raised in celebration of the Unification of Crete with Greece. Up until the civil war it had been used as a prison. Going up Angelou Street we come across big Venetian buildings (about which we have insufficient information). At the beginning of Theotokopoulou Street the Temple of San Salvatore is still erect. It is the monastery of Franciscan monks in the homonymous western bastion. The arrangement of the monastery follows the western models with the square courtyard of the cells and a passageway at the southern part of the church. The temple is small in size with a sharp perpendicular vault and two adjacent chapels with cross vaults on the north-western side. The altar of the temple with a large arch occupies the eastern part. From the wing of the cells, the eastern part is preserved with several subsequent additions, which probably included the western part.
Continuing along Theotokopoulou Street we can see many many Venetian mansions with pronounced oriental mouldings from the time of the Turkish occupation (wooden balconies, latticed windows. The neighbourhood today is called Tophanas so called because this is where Turks kept their cannons. During the later years of the Turkish occupation, the prosperous Christian families lived in Tophana. The Consulates of the Great Powers were also there. It had been the neighbourhood of Christian aristocrats and therefore inaccessible to the Turks. Following our course towards the east, in Zambeliou Street, along the way we see houses with characteristic Venetian facades. From these facades, there remain only a few features of the superb Venetian doorways. A more characteristic example is the Renier mansion with very few features remaining although the gateway has survived and bears the date 1608 and the inscription “Multa tulip Fecitus et studarit dulces patter, sudavit et alsit semper requies serena” (namely the sweet father had done a lot and studied. He had sweated and suffered, let perpetual respite give him joy). Also inside the gate, the private chapel of Renier survives almost intact. This temple is of Latin origin. The original temple must have been of the 15th century with the altar facing northwards, the entrance westwards and the window eastwards. During the alterations that were made in the 17th century, on the northern part, the altar was removed and the entrance was created with some intervention on the southern part for the construction of a new altar. The building is small, but it has very beautiful decorative architectural features, like embossed mouldings on the semi cylindrical vault of purely decorative character. Another characteristic facade is that of a Venetian mansion with an inscription carved in the wall “Nuli parvus est cui magnus est animus” (i.e., no one ispoor when his soul is big). The same inscription is decorated with an unknown coat of arms. In Zambeliou and Skoufon Street there used to be the church of St John Theologos.
In the days of the Turkish occupation, it was converted into a mosque. Today there is only a fountain. Also in Zambeliou and Portou Street there is a Turkish Haman. In the small streets behind Zambeliou Street the area is known as the Jewish quarter, because Jews used to live there during the Venetian period. The Venetians had taken strict measures against the Jews and they were obliged to live only in a neighbourhood specially appointed for them. The central road is today’s Kondilakii Street and here are houses of famous Jews. In the place of today’s tavern “Ela” there used to be a Synagogue that was recently destroyed by fire. The front and the big internal walls still exist. In Zambeliou and Halidon Street there is a two-storey building with a row of three arrows, which is identified as the Venetian Loggia. The same building was used as a military hospital by the Turks, an admiralty of the Foreign League during the period of the Cretan State, and later as the Town Hall. You can see an inscription in Arabic letters. In Halidon Street, where today the Archaeological Museum is there is a monastery built by Franciscan monks. It consists of a temple and two adjacent courtyards with all four sides closed on the south of the church. On the northern side, a penned in wall surrounded the gardens of the monastery. The whole complex was quite big – approximately 60 meters E.W. and 90 meters N.W. It is not yet known when the building of the monastery began, as there is no written evidence; a section of the temple however has strong gothic influences of temple construction a fact that probably places it in the 14th century. We do know however that the church and the bell-tower were completed in 1595 from a description found in a letter that was sent by Dr Onorio Belli to Signor Alfonso Ragona in Venice after the big earthquake of 1596. The church consists of a central temple; to the east are choral annexures, while on the west of today’s passageway are completed modifications to the original building during the years of Turkish domination. On the N.E. corner is the bell-tower that has a separate entrance. The main temple is divided into three aisles. The middle one is a raised oblong, whilst the northern and the southern ones have a semi cylindrical roof.
On the northern part of the main temple three chapels have been annexed, each sheltered by a quarter of a sphere. From the cells survives the external eastern part that looks onto Halidon Street (today there are a row of shops) quite altered, owing to the subsequent interference. On the southern part of the cells, there is a section of a building that can be identified as the dining room of the monastery. During the time of the Turkish occupation, it was converted into the mosque of Yousouf Pasha. Only the balcony, on the northern side with the halfdestroyed minaret, can be seen today. Opposite St Franciscus, it is said there used to be the convent of Santa Ciara with Franciscan nuns. Today absolutely nothing has remained. Opposite St Franciscus a Turkish hamam survives (today a belltower). ).Barely a few meters to the south, is the Cathedral of Hania, Trimartiri, or the church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. It was built in an area that used to be the soap factory of Mustapha Nily Pasha, that in its turn was built on the ruins of an ancient edifice. When Mustapha Nily Pasha became Prime Minister of the Ottoman Empire, he donated his soap factory and another 100.000 curus for the erection of the church to the Christian community of Hania, and the son of Mustapha Pasha – Velis, who was the Governor of Crete at the time, offered 30.000 curus. The Christian locals also made many offers. It was inaugurated in 1857. It had three aisles consecrated to St Nicholas (the northern), to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (the central) and to three Hierarchs (the southern). During firing on the Christian neighbourhood of Hania by the Turks in 1897, damage was also caused to the Trimartiri, the repairs were made with the Tsar’s money who also donated the church bell. By the sea, at the port, we can see the temple of Hassan Pasha with typical morphology of temples, with one big central dome and four smaller ones. On the southeastern corner, there is the foundation of a minaret and in the interior, on the southeastern part, the Mihrarb (the holy stand). The mansions of the Venetian relatives and the palace of the Rector were on the hill of Kasteli. At the end of Lithino Street, a complex of buildings under the name “palazzo” is identified as the palace of the Rector. Here we can see an ornamented gateway of renaissance style, leading to an internal courtyard surrounded by the buildings. Documents, from various eras of the Venetian Council as well as of the Rector of Hania, refer to the state of this building and the repairs that were made to it. The sole remnant of the “palazzo” complex is the internal courtyard, while we don’t know if the gate of 1624, quoted in the archives of the town, had been transferred from elsewhere. The Palazzo of the Venetian Rectors had been also been used as the residence of the Pasha of Hania. On the Corso of Kasteli (Kanevaro Street) used to be the Premarin mansion; that, according to an inscription, was built in 1598 by the architect Manoli Litina from Rethymnon and was always, according to the inscription, “urbis ornamentum” (an ornament of the town). On the same street, we can see the mansion of Zangarol with a gate of renaissance artistry, and on the opposite side the mansion of Molin, that had images of warriors on its gate heads and in the middle the coat of arms of Molin. The mansions, like other Venetian houses, were destroyed by the bombing in the Second World War (1941). On the hill of Kastelli in St Mark’s Street, survives a section of the monastery of Santa Maria de Miracoli. It was a convent of the battalion of the Domenicans and was founded in 1615.
The typology of the monastery follows the familiar Western prototypes. On the south of the church is the closed courtyard with the passage, while the bell-tower that used to be on the southeastern part of the church has not survived. The greatest part of the church has been destroyed, and only the southern wall remains with the embossed mouldings for the perpendicular vault and the blind arches, whilst from the rest of the complex, part of the courtyard, the cells and the passage way can be seen. On the steps north of the monastery is the big arsenal. It’s a shipyard to which a second floor was later added and was used as the Town Hall of Hania. The relics of the Minoan town are also on the same hill. Ruins of buildings are found in Katre Street and in Kanevaro Street. The most outstanding complex of houses has been dug up on the square of St Catherine during the Greek-Swedish excavations. A big building of the post-Minoan period has been discovered. It has many chambers, an open paved courtyard, a hearth and a storeroom, where a great number of pots and jars were found, as well as monumental entrances that look out on to small streets. Approximately 100 clay tablets of Linear B Scripture have been found, which probably suggests the possible existence of a palace. On a site in Katre Street, an archive of tablets of Linear A Scripture has been found. In Katre Street there is also a Turkish hamam. A few meters southwards is Splatzia Square. The Monastery of St. Nicholas is also here, belonging to Dominican monks which must have been built before 1320. The cells of the monastery, arranged according to Western models, were on the northern part, forming two closed courtyards adjacent to each other, with the passageway on the ground floor and the cells on the upper floor. From this complex, only one side of the western courtyard survives today. The eastern part has been altered by subsequent additions. The church is divided into three parts: (a) the vestibule with the entrance gate of characteristic gothic style, the three aisled main temple that has been renovated and (c) the altar with its right and left parts quite well preserved. The original bell-tower of the monastery was standing on the northeastern side of the church.
Today not even its base exists; it has been replaced by a contemporary one in a different spot. Firstly, the church of St Nicolas was converted into a temple of Ibrahim or Houghar (of the Monarch). From its use as a temple the minaret has been left on the south-western part and the imprint of the emblem of the Sultan at the entrance survive. Here the sword of the conqueror was kept in a red woollen sheath and Imamis held it each Friday when he read the Koran. Today it is kept in the Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. South of St Nicholas is the two aisled vaulted Orthodox Church of St Catherine (characteristic renaissance architecture). Until recently, it has been used as a bakery. In the neighbourhood of Splatzia, on Rougha square, in Kallinikou Sarpaki Street is the Orthodox single-aisled church of St Irene, which has been recently discovered. In Hatjimichali Daliani Street is the temple of Ahmet Agha. It is single-aisled vaulted edifice, with a minaret in the north-western corner and the “Mihrab” in the south-eastern corner. South of Splatzia is the neighbourhood of St Anarghiri, where there are the homonymous Orthodox two aisled churches which is also consecrated to St Savas. It was a parish church, owned by the brothers and priests Manolis and Damianos Fassoulas from a middle- class family registered in the Venetian catalogues of 1644. It functioned as the Metropolis until the erection of St Trimartiri (which is situated in Jacob Koumi Street). Going towards the port from Daskalogianni Street, we see in Archoleon Street the Venetian shipyards. After that, we come to northeast of the town to the bastion Sabionara. On the walls, we see the Lion of St Mark, which was the emblem of the Venetians.