HANIA

 
     

The citadel of ancient Hania was named Kydonia and this Acropolis was built on the hill above the town. It wasn't until 961 A.D. when the Byzantines drove away the Arabs that the town was fortified. Surrounding the city with a large fortress which was named Castello 'Kasteli'. Kydonia remained a significant settlement and a military fort, but under the new name of Hania.
 

Today Hania is the second largest town of Crete however, between 1898 and 1971 it was the capital of the island. Venice had to fight often with Genoa for its possession. Once under their rule its fortifications (of mainly walls around the town) were erected in 1538-1540 by Michele Sammicheli,  although in the process they used much of the ancient buildings including the theatre of ancient Kydonia, and its temples, you can still see signs of old pillars and decorations. The fort was equipped with 300 cannons and 30,000 cannon balls. 

    

It withstood many pirate attacks for numerous years, even the legendary Barbarossa was unable to raid Hania. Barabarossa whose full name was Khayr al-Din Barbarossa, (quite a mouthful!) Was better known as Red Beard who later became Admiral of the fleet. In the aftermath of his attacks on the island, nothing but corpses and rubble were found.

  

Because of its shallow waters the port of Hania is not suited for today's large ships, which are able to dock in Souda Bay. This however has helped in keeping the old fashioned atmosphere around the old harbour port and town which still has some signs of past dominations. Because of this some of the walls have escaped being pulled down. The longest section still standing is along the areas called 'Topanas' and 'Evraiki' which are today full of small hotels and restaurants.

  

Although the top of the walls, maybe a hundred metres from the port, offers a quite different atmosphere with small houses and kitchen gardens. The town was originally limited to 'Castello' with its main quarter being on high ground overlooking the harbour, this was where the Venetians had most of their main buildings. Little is left of the Venetian buildings today. Considering the customary attitude towards other religions, the Venetians were rather liberal. Their attempts to impose Roman Catholicism over the Greek Orthodox population in Crete were mild, also allowing Jews to settle here as well as in Venice and its territories, also with a lot less harassment than in other countries.  Consequently, 'La Canea' as it was known, became a very cosmopolitan Mediterranean port where different cultures and religions could live together peacefully for a while at least.

The current name, Hania or Chania, is attributed to the Saracen Arabs who conquered Crete in 823. In the Kydonia area was the "City of Alchania Komi" in the name of the Arabic God Al Hanim, the God of War. This is the Greek God Hephaestus and the Roman God Vulcan.

The Italian Cristoforo Buondelmonti, who visited Crete in 1415, gave another version for the name. He took the name Lachanea, meaning cabbage in Greek and mockingly called it the Venetian CANEA, meaning "Bitch", because of the non-equitable residents.

     

The city fell to the Turks after a two-month siege in 1645, despite the Cretans having inflicted terrific losses on the Turks (records show around 40,000 dead), it became the Turkish capital of Crete and the seat of the pasha. It was the first important Cretan centre to surrender to Ottoman rule. Christian churches were converted to mosques - as they were everywhere in Greece after the Turkish conquest.

 
 
 

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 More Round the Island pages
: Beaches - Western Crete : Apokoronas : Hania Town : Kournas Lake : Aptera :
: Frangokastello : Gramvousa : Spinalonga : Monasteries
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