Photo of the week: the spires of Chania

The city of Chania, in western Crete, was the island’s second largest city during both the Venetian and Ottoman occupations (13th– early 20th century). It even became its capital, from 1850 until the island’s union with Greece.

Until the mid 20th century, the city’s population was a diverse mixture made up of Orthodox Greeks, Muslim Turks, Jews and several other smaller ethnic and religious groups.

spires of Chania

Today’s photo, taken from the top of the city’s massive Venetian fortifications, shows a panorama of the city centre.  On the foreground, the blue dome belongs to the belfry of the city’s Catholic church of the Virgin Mary

In the middle, one sees Chania’s Orthodox Cathedral, dedicated to the Presentation of Mary, built in 1860.

To the right, stands the minaret of Aga Çamisi (the Official’s mosque), still bearing its crescent moon on top. Built in memory of a Turkish official killed during the city’s siege in 1645, the mosque is now closed.

To the left, on the background, one sees the orthodox church of St. Nicholas, bearing both a belfry and a minaret. Initially the church of the city’s Dominican monastery, it was later converted into a mosque and the characteristic minaret with two galleries (balconies) was added. It was renamed Hünkar Çami (the Sovereign’s Mosque), in honour of the Turkish Sultan Ibrahim. In 1918 it passed into the hands of the city’s Orthodox community, who converted it back into a church and added the belfry, without pulling down the minaret.

These are the most visible signs of the city’s former multi-ethnic and multi-cultural past. Many more can be discovered by taking a stroll in the city’s winding alleys.

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