Historic Sites of Rethymno Town
The Venetian fortress “Fortezza” is one of the main sights in Rethymno
and was built by the Venetians in order to protect themselves from the pirates and the Muslims in the 16th century. Although originally planned to shelter all the Rethymnians, it soon became evident that the area of “Fortezza” was only big enough to house the Venetian garrison and protect the citizens only in the event of siege. Prior to that the hill was probably the site of the acropolis of ancient Rithymna with a Temple of Apollo and a Sanctuary of Artemis.
In the Roman period however there is also reference to a temple of Artemis Roccaea on that same hill.The outer walls are still in pretty good shape while from the inside one can see the impact from the air raids during the Second World War. The huge dome next to the Venetian cathedral of St. Nicholas Church was added later during the Ottoman occupation when the church was converted into a mosque.
The Venetian Harbor of Rethymno with the Venetian buildings and later Turkish additions, is definitely one of the most picturesque sites. The mole with a breakwater wall was built in the 13th century by the Venetians and is still very well preserved.
The lighthouse was added later by the Turks in the 17th century. There are many taverns and café bars quayside where you can enjoy fresh fish or have a drink next to the fishing boats. Near the Venetian harbor there is a big car park area.
The Rimondi Fountain in the center of the old town (at “Platanos” square),was built in 1626 by the Venetian Rector (Governor) of Rethymno A. Rimondi in order to provide the citizens of Rethymno with drinkable water. Fresh water runs out from three lion heads into three basins that are placed in between four fluted Corinthian columns. On top of the columns is an architrave on which the words LIBERALITATIS and FONTES can still be read. Rumor has it that whoever drinks from this water stays young forever...
The Venetian Loggia of Rethymno is a 16th-century beautiful building that used to be the meeting-place for the Venetian nobility and officials to discuss trade and politics. It is a square building with arches on its three sides that is preserved almost intact. “Loggia” was later converted into a mosque by the Turks who added a minaret on the west side of it (taken down in 1930).
The Historical - Folk Museum of Rethymno, at Vernardou Street, is itself an impressive Venetian town house built n the 17th century. The house was donated from its owners who were also the founders of the museum in 1973 (Christophoros Stavroulakis and Fani Voyiatzaki). The museum houses collections of embroidery (fabrics and equipment) lacework, baskets, coins, pottery, costumes, exhibition on traditional crops and bread-making as well as many other historical items.
The church of Our Lady of the Angels, commonly known as "Mikri Panagia" (Little Virgin), was dedicated to Mary Magdalene and was built by the Dominican Friars at the end of the Venetian period. Like many other churches the Turks converted this one also into a mosque with the addition of a prayer niche and a minaret. From 1917 onwards it has been a Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels.
Other worth visiting sites are:
The Neratze Mosque (originally the Venetian church of the Augustinian Priory that was later converted into a mosque with the tallest minaret in town. Today it is housing the Municipal Odeon)
The Porta Guora, the Great Gate of Rethymno (one of last remnants of the fortifications built in 1540-1570 under the supervision of Michele Sanmicheli. In 1670 next to the gate a minaret was raised according to the Turkish customs).
The Kara Musa Pasha Mosque (originally the Venetian monastery of St. Barbara that was later turned also into a mosque)
The Church of St Francis (built in the Venetian period as the Franciscan Friary church, later became a poorhouse by the Turks and today it is housing a primary school)