Byzantine & later Monuments of the Chania Prefecture
The Byzantine Empire and Orthodoxy were two powers which left their indelible mark on the historical course of Crete. In Chania alone, more than 300 Byzantine churches are preserved.
The early - Christian Basilicas of Sougia and Almyrida, with the exquisite mosaic floors, the Rotonda or the Church of Archangel Michael (6th century) in Episkopi, Kisamos, with its impressive and unique architecture and more than five layers of iconography, the Church of Agios Nicolaos (11th century) in Kyriakoselia in Apokorona, the Monastira or Panagia Zerviotissa (12th century) in Stylo and the Church of Agios Georgios (1243) in Alikianos whose iconography is ascribed to Pavlos Provatas (1430) are some of the most significant ecclesiastical monuments of the prefecture.
The church of Agios Georgios (1314) in Komitades, Sfakia, The Mother of God in Kakodiki of Selino, Archangel Michael (14th century) in Aradena of Sfakia and in Sarakina of Selino as well as a dozen more churches and chapels will not only draw the attention of the visitor but will also move him.
Monasteries have existed on Crete since the 1st Byzantine period before 824, but in the 16th century, when under the Turkish threat, new monasteries were built and the existing ones were restored under the auspices of the Venetian conquerors. The most important ones can be found in Akrotiri. There is the monastery of The Holy Trinity or Tzagarolon (17th century) which was greatly influenced by western architectural elements, a little further down the monastery of Gouvernetou, dedicated to the Lady of the Angels (16th century), which stands before us in the shape of a fort and from there through a gorge the "katholiko" of Agios Ioannis the Hermit (17th century), which is of special architectural interest as it has been adapted to the wilderness and impenetrability of the landscape, comes into view.
Of equal importance are the monasteries of Panagia Odigitria or Gonia in Kolympari (17th century), the monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos in Stylos of Apokoronas, the fortified monastery of the Virgin Mary Chrisoskalitissa on the western coast of the island which is built on a rock, the women's monastery of Chrisopigi in Mournies, Agia Kiriaki in Varipetro and the monastery of Agios Georgios in Karidi (12th century) with the oldest oil mill on Crete, to name but a few. The countless conquerors of this land have left their ineffaceable mark all over the prefecture with monuments which recall the ordeal of the Cretan people but also its bravery.
The fort of Selino in Paleochora (13th century), Fragokastelo (14th century) and the ruins of the tower of Da Molin (13th century) in Alikianos are some of the early ruins from the Venetian rule. Towards the end of the period, when in the face of danger from the Turks, the most capable Venetian architects created some of the best examples of defensive architecture such as the fortress of Chania, a work by Sanmicheli (1537), the fortress of the island of Souda and that of Gramvousa, works of Orsini (1570 and 1579).
A series of other fortresses and kouledes (a type of fort), such as that of Itzedin (1872) in Kalami, the koules of Aptera (1867), the kouledes of Askifou, and the tower of Alidakis in Ebrosnero of Apokoronas are all reminders of the Turkish rule. The last to conquer the island did not erect grand edifices, they did however leave a reminder of the horror and futility of human avidity and of war: the German Cemetery of the Second World War in Maleme, where 4400 German soldiers rest in peace.