Rethymno is the capital of the homonymous prefecture (regional unit) of Crete and the seat of the metropolitan homonymous Municipality of the region of Crete (Kallikratis program). From 1999 to 2010, according to the then administrative division of Greece, it was the seat of the Municipality of Rethymno. It displays a lot of tourist traffic during the summer, while the more than 10,500 active students make the city particularly lively during the rest of the year. The population of the city amounts to 34,300 inhabitants (2011 census) and the municipality to 55,525 inhabitants. The wider urban area has a population of 46,879 inhabitants, while the total population of the Rethymnon Regional Unit amounts to 85,609 inhabitants. It is the third largest city in Crete after Heraklion and Chania.
Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine years
Rethymno seems to have been inhabited since ancient times. The present city is related to the ancient Rithymna, which is located between Georgioupolis and Panormos and probably extended to the place of the present city. Evidences for the existence of the city exist from the 5th-4th c. e.g. and are chiefly silver and bronze coins, which bore on one side the head of Apollo or Athena, and on the other a trident or two dolphins or a goat. From the minting of these coins it seems that the city was developed with considerable trade. It may have developed relations with the Ptolemies, who may have renamed it Arsinoe, or both cities were close by. The information available to us about the Byzantine period is limited.
Byzantine and Ottoman years
There is no significant evidence until 1204 (Fourth Crusade), when the Venetians bought Crete from Boniface of Momferrat. Then begins the period of Venetian rule, which lasts until 1669. The Venetians initially expelled the Genoese who ruled the island for a while and settled in the latter. However, they did not pay much attention to its development. They were more interested in their possessions in mainland Greece and the Ionian Islands.
In 1540, the Venetians decided to surround the city with a 1400 m long wall (now completely destroyed), in order to protect the city from impending Turkish invasion, but also due to the expansion of the city to the settlement of Castell Vecchio, but leaving it from sea side exposed. It was thus easy for the pirate Oluj Ali to conquer it, in 1562. The Venetians, realizing their mistake, after expelling him, built the famous castle of Fortezza, which survives today. Fortezza is the emblem of Rethymnon.
Important personalities of Rethymno of the 16th Century are Emmanuel Tzanes Bounialis and his brother Marinos Tzanes Bounialis, creator of the epic "Cretan War", Nikolaos Vlastos, Zacharias Kallergis (edited and printed by Lego Emmanouil Lamvardos, Georgios Chortatsis (Erofili, Gyparis, Panoria) etc.
On November 13, 1646, Rethymno and in 1669 Crete as a whole were conquered by the Turks, who led the city to decline. Its inhabitants gradually began to abandon it, but there were also small uprisings. With the outbreak of the Revolution of 1821 in mainland Greece, Crete revolted. The Turks responded with massacres of civilians in various cities, the first being in Kydonia, Chania on May 15, 1821. Motivated by this episode, the Turks of Rethymno did the same. More than a hundred unarmed Greeks were slaughtered in the city, including Ch. Kallergis and Ioannis Deligeorgis. They looted shops and workshops, captured women and children and imprisoned the bishop of Rethymno, Gerasimos Perdikaris, as well as the abbots of the monasteries, other clergy and laity, and the Greek teacher John. For three days they ran to the surrounding villages, looting and killing those who did not manage to hide in the mountains. Up to sixty people were killed in the village of Perivolia, near the Fortress, and many others in the villages of Magoula and Maroula, including the priest George. Even two Turks were killed among themselves in the dispute over the possession of three young women. About 500 Greeks were killed in the villages around Rethymno. A Turk named Hatzalakis was distinguished for his savagery by killing any Christian he met. Those Greeks who were able were rescued in Sfakia and the surrounding mountains, while the Turks were closed in the fortress of Rethymno. Without any difficulty, the Turks suppressed the revolution on the island, as the Cretans fought alone and helpless. Characteristic is the episode of the cave of Melidoni, in which about 370 people (men and women) who did not want to surrender had taken refuge: The Turks threw burning materials at the entrance of the cave, as a result of which the inmates died of suffocation. (2 - 3 October 1823).
In 1866 a new revolution broke out. This time the Cretans fought
largely helpless and the revolution was suppressed. The most
characteristic event of this revolution is the holocaust of the
Arkadi Monastery (November 8, 1866), a monastery 22 km east of
With the independence of Crete (1897) the city began to develop again. Infrastructure projects were constructed (roads, bridges, faculties). The arrival and settlement of thousands of Greek refugees from Asia Minor, over 6000 in Rethymnon and its surroundings, took place in the period 1922-1925, after the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Exchange of Populations. Despite the difficulties of the time, the integration of refugees took place quite smoothly and harmoniously and now one third of the population of Rethymnon has Asia Minor roots.
Development in cultural and economic terms received a significant boost with the settlement of Asia Minor, but was stopped by the Battle of Crete in World War II, during which the city suffered several disasters. However, a significant part of the (Venetian) old town was saved, which is still one of the best preserved Venetian cities in Greece.
After the liberation, the city began to develop again, both in terms of housing and spirituality. The establishment of the School of Philosophy and the School of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Crete (approximately 10,500 students) and the creation of the University Library that currently operates on the campus in the settlement of Gallos gave it a significant impetus. Since 1999, the department of Music Technology and Acoustics Engineers of TEI has been operating in Rethymno. Of Crete and since 2016 the Research Center of Plasma Physics and Laser which is a National Research Infrastructure (access point) in the field of Lasers and Materials (HELLAS-CH).
In 2019, the TEI was abolished. Of Crete and the Hellenic Mediterranean University (ELMEPA) was founded with headquarters in Heraklion. According to the Founding Law of ELMEPA in Rethymno, the School of Music and Audiovisual Technologies was established with two departments, a) The Department of Music Technology and Acoustics and b) The Department of Music Studies. At the same time, the Research Center for Plasma Physics and Laser joined as an Institute the new University Research Center of ELMEPA.
Today Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete with a population of about 34,300 inhabitants (2011 census). Its economy is based on tourism, as there are many attractions, a long sandy beach and a strong hotel infrastructure. The city is served by road with connection to Heraklion and Chania through the National Road E 75, while it also has a relatively good provincial road network, which connects to all areas of the Prefecture. It also has a new, modern port. It has no airport, as the Source airport did not continue to operate after the German occupation.
The prefecture of Rethymno as part of Crete belongs to the Mediterranean climatic zone whose climate is characterized as temperate. The winter is mild and wet with plenty of rain and snow in the mountains. Snowfall is rare in the lowlands, but quite common in the mountains. In general, the atmosphere is quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea. During the summer, the average temperature ranges between 25-30 degrees (Celsius). In the south of the Prefecture of Rethymno, the temperature is higher and with more sunny days during the summer.
Neighborhoods and suburbs
It took its name from a church in the area and there is the swimming pool and bus station. In the past, there was a Jewish cemetery and Muslim slaughterhouses and the Jewish geyser of the Geraniotika stream. Neighborhoods are Achnotripa, Kolymba and Gynaikonitis.
Kallithea is an area of Rethymnon, located on the east side of the city near the beach and borders with Perivolia. In recent years the area has been rebuilt. Reference points are the church of Agios Georgios of Petaliotis and the area of BIO, an old nuclear processing plant. Formerly there was the stadium of Keravnos, as well as the headquarters of AEK Kallithea. Today many students live in Kallithea, but there are still several families.
It is a small suburb north of Perivolia where the cemetery of Agios Georgios is housed. There are two rural areas, Chalases and Koroneika, where olives are grown mainly.
Mastabas is the "uphill" neighborhood of the city, on the road-exit to the south of the Prefecture of Rethymno with the famous beaches. IKA Rethymno is housed there. Neighborhoods of the areas are Lourakia or Aloni, Mesospinis, the Mansion of the Clock and the Church of the Clock.
Rethymnon old town
The old town of Rethymnon is a preserved renaissance town. It extends in the north-northwestern part of the city of Rethymnon and has elements from both the Venetian and the Ottoman Empire. In the city there is a market on Arkadiou Street and another on Antistaseos Street. In addition, there are various churches such as the Diocese, the Little Virgin, Saint George and Saint Nektarios. The fortress of Fortezza rises above the old town. In the alleys of the area are housed taverns with traditional music.
Perivolia used to be a suburb, while today it is a district.
Sochora of Rethymno
Sochora is a neighborhood of the old town of Rethymnon and is located at the western end of the municipality, below the castle of Fortezza and parallel to the peripheral rocky beach. In this area are located the police station and the traffic of Rethymno, the prefecture and the historic National Stadium of Rethymnon where since 2007 national category matches are hosted, since the team of Sochora named Asteras Rethymnou competes in the 3rd National. In the neighborhood there is a park with a fountain, various cafes that offer raki with the corresponding meze while finally, the area is surrounded by alleys.
Irfan Metochi is a district of the city of Rethymno, Crete and is built at a distance of 3 km from the city center, just after the pine-covered hill of Evilia. The inhabitants of the area are mainly engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. The view due to the altitude is very beautiful while an extension of Irfan Metochi is considered Risvan Metochi.
Gardens, squares, streets
The municipal garden is located near the city center, but also in the church of the Four Martyrs. It has a playground, fountains, a fountain and a café. It is used as a place of sports, but also of political and cultural events such as the wine festival and the KNE festival.
Asia Minor Square
The new square of the Old Town, where the monument of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, the House of Culture, the Conservatory (Neratze Mosque), St. Francis and the Folklore Museum are located. It was named in memory of the refugees from Asia Minor who settled in the city in 1922 and those who were martyred during the Asia Minor Catastrophe.
Stamathioudaki, Kountouriotou, Kourmouli, Emmanouil Kefalogianni, Sophocles Venizelou
Fortezza is the Venetian fortress of the city, a work of the 16th century (dating from 1573), Built according to the Venetian system of fortification architecture. Characteristic of the construction is that the bastions are joined together by sections of straight walls, with a large width and with an inclination externally, in order to expel the enemy missiles. The founder of the Fortress is Rector Albize Lando. It was founded on September 13, 1573 and the works in the courtyard and in the public buildings that existed inside it were completed in 1580. Then it was used by the Ottomans. The Fortress Gate Fortress, known as Rivelino, is a pentagonal fortress on the east gate and was built by the Ottomans after the capture of the city. Other Venetian monuments are:
the Great Porta-Porta Guora which is a remnant of the fortifications and is located at the beginning of Antistaseos Street.
the Rimondi fountain
the Church of Santa Maria - the current Conservatory (Neratze Mosque)
the Monastery of Agia Varvara - Kara Musa Pasha Mosque
Loggia (Club of Venetian officers of Rethymno)
The Church of Mary Magdalene, which today functions as an orthodox church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is called "Little Virgin" or "Lady of the Angels", as well as many private buildings, especially doors, which deserve the attention of the visitor of the city.
Ottoman monuments are preserved in the city:
Ibrahim Khan Mosque: Originally a Venetian cathedral but during the Ottoman period it was converted into an Islamic Mosque dedicated to Sultan Ibrahim Khan. The oversized modern dome 11m in diameter was added by the Ottomans. Today the space is used as an art exhibition space.
Mosque of Veli Pasha or Mastaba: It is a monument of the 17th century and according to one view the name Veli Pasha is due to Veli, a cache of Deli Hussein Pasha.
Mosque of the Governor Sultan Turhan Haditse.
Mosque of Gazi Deli Hussein Pasha or Neratze: Originally the church of Santa Maria (catholic church of the Augustinian monks) which in 1646 was converted by Gazi Deli Hussein Pasha into an Islamic mosque. Today the site of the monument is used as a conservatory and the minaret is under maintenance because it has a slight slope.
Statues and monuments
Monument of Asia Minor, in the homonymous square
Monument to the Fallen Greek Scouts
Statue of Kostis Giamboudakis, arsonist of Arkadi
Statue of Eleftherios Venizelos
Statue of an Unknown Soldier
Bust of Archimandrite Gregory Vorgiadakis of Vatziki, Asia Minor
Bust of Kallirois Paren
Museums - Exhibitions
In the city there are, among others: The Temporary Exhibition of the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno housed in the church of St. Francis, the Historical and Folklore Museum of Rethymno, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete, the Paleontological Museum of Rethymno and smaller, such as the Museum of Na Mitro Rethymnon which is housed in a room of the parish offices of the Metropolitan Church of Rethymnon (south of this church) and includes 64 exhibits that cover the period from 1816 to 1992.
Temporary Exhibition of the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon
The Temporary Exhibition of the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon is housed in the church of Agios Frangiskos. The exhibits come from various areas of the prefecture and represent all periods of prehistoric and historical times. Late Neolithic (3500-2900 BC) and Early Minoan (2800-2100 BC) are represented by pottery, tools and sculptures, including a bi-shaped marble figurine, found mainly in the caves of Melidoni and Geranium. The Middle Minoan period (2100-1600 BC) is represented by finds coming from the building complexes in Apodoulou and Monastiraki, as well as from the sanctuary of the summit in Vrysina. Of particular interest are the large number of seals and the clay model of an altar, which retains only its upper part.
Museum of History and Folk Art
The Museum of History and Folk Art is housed in a preserved Venetian building, unique, a model of urban housing of this era, which dates back to the 17th century. It has been designated a protected historical monument by the Ministry of Culture. Apart from the important collections it hosts, the building itself is an exceptional monument.
Costumes, handmade textiles, weaving tools, embroidery and lace, traditional ceramics, pottery and ceramic art tools and metalworking tools are on display. The whole process of making bread, one of the characteristic activities in Rethymno, starting from the wheat harvest, to the baking of the bread, is also presented in the Museum, along with other traditional professions, such as the saddler, the blacksmith, the farmer and the knife maker.
There is also an important collection of historical photographic documents and maps. Educational programs are organized at the Museum, while various publications with various topics are available.
Museum of marine life
In this museum the visitor can find a serious number of representatives of the marine flora and fauna, mainly mollusks, fish and sponges. There are also some fossils. The Museum is housed in an abbey, recently renovated, in the old town. His collections are one of the most important in Rethymnon.
Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete has a permanent collection of about 650 works by contemporary Greek artists that cover a wide range of contemporary Greek visual reality from 1950 until today. It also houses the Municipal Gallery "L. Kanakakis "and is hosted in a Venetian building, in the old town. In the Gallery there is a permanent exhibition of works by L. Kanakakis, but also works by many other contemporary Greek artists from 1950 onwards. The Museum organizes several activities related to Modern Art, both in Greece and abroad, all year round. In addition to exhibitions, seminars, lectures and books, albums and educational materials of various interests and orientations are organized.
Museum of Education, University of Crete
The Museum of Education of the University of Crete includes historical material and items of the Pedagogical Academy of Heraklion as well as important exhibits of Greek schools from the end of the 18th century until the end of the 20th. The purpose of the museum is the scientific study, preservation and exhibition of the educational school past and the history of the teaching profession, its conventional and digital promotion as well as its connection with the Greek school and educational development.
Permanent exhibition of the Hellenic Speleological Society
Permanent exhibition entitled "Caves, Monuments of Natural and Cultural Heritage" of the Hellenic Speleological Society, is hosted at 14 Patelarou Street, Mikri Panagia area. The exhibition is open every Wednesday from 18.00-20.00.
Holy Temples - Monasteries
In the Old Town of Rethymno are the following holy temples: Entrances of the Virgin (Great Virgin, Metropolis), Saint Barbara, Saint Anthony, Holy Apostles (pilgrimage), Lady of the Angels (Little Virgin), Saint George (Grotini), Saint Agioi Theodoroi, Agios Spyridon, Four Martyrs. It is noted that the Holy Metropolis of Rethymno and Avlopotamos is a province of the Throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The church is of the type of an early Christian basilica, three-aisled, without a dome. The middle aisle is elevated, allowing the creation of double-glazed windows for richer lighting. Three building phases of the Cathedral or the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin are identified. The first small church is lost in the depths of the centuries. The second church, larger and more imposing, was built by Bishop Kallinikos Nikoletakis in 1844 and the third church, the current one, was rebuilt in 1956. Next to the church is the unique bell tower of its neoclassical structure (see fig.). It is reported that the ringing of bells in the major cities of Crete, including Rethymnon, was allowed only around the middle of the 19th century, when the construction of bell towers began. This belfry began to be built in 1892, during the presidency of Hierotheos Praoudakis, by the practical engineer Georgios Daskalakis - the same one who in 1887 undertook the construction of the minaret of the Nerantzes mosque and the current 1st Primary School - and the construction ends in the year 1899. In its construction was used Alpha stone, from the homonymous village of the province of Mylopotamos. But because its foundation proved to be problematic and its financial resources limited, successive fundraisers had to be held among the city's few Christian residents. The Russians participate in the construction costs of the bell tower, by covering the cost of the foundry of its eight bells, from the revenues of the Occupation stamp, which were donated to the Parish Committee by the Russian Governor Theodoros De Chiostak. Relevant news is published in the newspaper Anagennisis of Rethymno of 23/11/1899 .. In this belfry, the two years 1995-1996 were fixed and then the Ecclesiastical Council replaced the old clock with a new satellite electric one. He did not place the old one in the Ecclesiastical Museum.
Northwest of the church of the Entrances of the Virgin and a short distance from it is the church of St. Barbara (December 4), which has a free cross-shaped dome in plan view. It was built in 1885. Saint Barbara saved the city from many epidemics, which is why the people of Rethymno consider it their patron saint. In the courtyard of the church is housed the Parish Home.
Temple of the Four Martyrs
The new three-aisled church of the Four New Martyrs Aggeli,
Manuel, Georgiou and Nikolaou has been built on the site of the
older ones, east of the homonymous square and near the site of their
martyrdom. The present church was inaugurated on December 28, 1975.
The central aisle is dedicated to the Saints Four Martyrs (October
28), the north to the Forty Martyrs (March 9) and the south to the
Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete (December 23). The Four New Martyrs
martyred in 1824 and were immediately established as Saints in the
consciousness of the people of Rethymno, who later recognized them
as the protectors of the modern city. In the iconostasis of the
Temple there are icons of Fotis Kontoglou.
Church of Our Lady of the Angels
The church of the Lady of the Angels or "Little Virgin", as it is called today, in comparison with the "Great Virgin", the metropolitan church of Rethymnon, is located right at the junction of Nikiforos Fokas and Th. Arambatzoglou streets. It was built in the last years of Venetian rule and was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene of the Dominican Order.
The Holy Cross (September 14), a place of martyrdom and blood, on the homonymous sacred hill to the west of Rethymnon, emerged as a great sacred pilgrimage both by the sanctity and historicity of the place and by the miraculous power of the Holy Cross. That is why in modern times (1935) the small church of the Holy Cross was built, at the most prominent point of the hill and the miraculous Cross with the Holy Wood was placed there, which had as a family heirloom Aikaterini Vasilaki or Stefanaina, as it was called.
The hill of the Holy Cross in the past, during the years of Venetian rule, was also known as Fourkokefalo or the Hill of Agios Athanasios. The first name is mentioned by Marinos Tzane Bounialis in his work "Cretan War". It is explained by the fact that during the Venetian period there was the place of execution of the Rethymno revolutionaries by the Venetian conquerors, who thus frightened and exemplified the people every time they revolted. In this fact we should also look for the etymology of the name "Fourcoco". In the interpretive dictionary of Dimitrakos we find the following interpretation of the first synthetic of the name: 1. (h) forka = forked stake 2. T-shaped beam or cross and, consequently, gallows, gallows. Regarding the second name, perhaps the existence on the hill of a church dedicated to Agios Athanasios could give an explanation for the origin of his name, which is also given by this name. However, the name of the hill can also be explained by the two churches of Agios Athanasios, which are marked at its foot, one with the number 28, in table 44 of Steriotos and the nickname Agios Athanasios of the Franks and the other with the number 27 and the nickname Agios Athanasios of the Greeks. The position of these two Saints Athanasia can be indicated by N.D. of the present church of Saints Constantine and Helen (Saint Athanasios of the Greeks), that is, at the foot of the homonymous hill, from where, of course, his second name would have come.
The name comes from the Turkish meskin = leper, because lepers were isolated there from the middle of the 18th century until the beginning of the 20th, when they were transferred to the famous Spinalonga, the island of lepers. For the same reason, the district - according to Stavraki - was also called Lavochori or Lovochori ["lova" (Spanish) = leprosy, eti. <arch. λώβη = sadness, στιάστιγα]. The area stretched on the northern slope of the present hill of the Holy Cross, on the western outskirts of our city, where the monastery of Mesabelitissa, from the many vineyards of Tsardana and Liatiko, in which it was built. The area with its poor and humble houses, perched on the hillside, hosted the lepers of the place and was a place forbidden for the healthy. At the foot of the hill of the Holy Cross were the cemeteries of the Orthodox and the Catholics, both of which continue to exist to this day.
Monastery of Christ the Savior
In today's I. Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior Christ, Koumbe, Rethymno, during the Venetian occupation - in parallel with the worship of the Savior Christ - was honored Saint John the Hermit, the Governor of Chania. This is confirmed both by the various blueprints of the Venetian occupation and by the existence, at the same time, in the area of the Monastery, of the coastal Watchtower of San Giovanni Eremita, which took its name, as well as its neighbor Cape (where the camp is today) San Zuanne (or Punta di S. Giovanni) from this Monastery, which, during the Venetian occupation, was widely known as the Monastery of St. John (of the Hermit).
The monastery during the years of Venetian rule (census 1637), which - like most monasteries at that time - was private was under the ownership of the sons of the never (= blessed) Konstantinos Vevelis, to whom it had come from a donation of Georgila Klarotzane to the never Loukas Vevelis, father of Konstantinos Vevelis. The newest History of the Monastery since its re-establishment (1935), by its youngest founder Nestora Vassalos, until today is characterized by its general social, cultural and spiritual contribution to the place.
In 1945 there were 5 parish committees