Map of the Old Town of Chania (Francesco Basilicata, 17th century)


The wider area of ​​Chania is inhabited continuously from the Neolithic era to the present day. At the "Kastelli" location remains of a Minoan centre have been found, whereas, during the Classical period, the location of Kydonia, one of the island’s most important and powerful city states of that time, was also the Kastelli Hill.
During the first Byzantine period (330-824 AD), Kydonia was the seat of the Diocese of the region until 824 A.D. when it was destroyed by the Saracens. In this period of Arab rule (828-961 A.D.) the linguistic root of the toponym “Chania” appears. In 961 A.D. Crete enters the second Byzantine period when it is taken under Byzantine control by the armies of general Nikiforos Fokas, who rose to be emperor a few years later. The settlement of Kydonia remains an important military centre and the perimeter of the Kastelli Hill is fortified. Parts of this Byzantine wall, to the south, remain standing to date. During the Fourth Crusade in 1204 A.D., with the dissolution of the Byzantine State, Crete is assigned to the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is initially divided into six and later into four large provinces. One of them, “Canea”, is the actual region of Chania.
In 1252 Venice decided to colonize the town of Chania. The Venetians first settled in the Kastelli hill, inside the Byzantine wall, where they established their new settlement. The suburbs were developed at the foot of the hill and were later surrounded by the new Venetian walls. The town and its port were an important trade centre with significant facilities to shelter the Venetian fleet and Canea was the second most important city in the Venetian Kingdom of Crete after Chandakas (nowadays, Heraklion). In 1645, after a two-months' siege, Chania succumbs to the Ottoman-Turks, and by 1669 all of Crete is under Ottoman-Turkish occupation. Chania reaches a new economic pinnacle during this time as there is considerable economic activity, based on the trade of local products.
The Cretan Revolution of 1897 resulted in a status of multinational occupation of Crete by the great powers. The focal point of these events was Chania. The Turkish-Ottoman army abandons Crete in November 1898 and at the same time half of the Muslim population leaves the island. With the founding of the "Cretan State" in 1898 Chania is introduced into an era of unprecedented prosperity and becomes the capital of Crete, experiencing to the fullest extent this vivid historical circumstance. Chania remains the capital of the island after the Union of Crete with Greece (1913), and at this point the systematic development and the layout design of the city of Chania outside the walls starts. Moreover, parts of the wall and important buildings are gradually being demolished. During World War II a large part of the walled city was destroyed as a result of the bombings.

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