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Rethymnon - Ierapetra

 

13. RETHYMNON - IERAPETRA (Following the south coast) (see Map 1 - Map 2 - Map 3 )

13.1 Rethymnon to Agia Galini 13.2 Agia Galini 13.3 Palace of Faistos 13.4 Agia Triada
13.5 Gortina or Gortyna 13.6 Asterroussia route 13.7 Levin  

The Minoan Mansion of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity)

(Guarded archaeological site, open daily from 8:30 a.m. till 3:00 p.m.)
Giving a Christian name to a Minoan mansion can only sound like a stupid joke. And yet it’s true. The Italian archaeologists that excavated the place (1902 - 1905, 1910 - 1914, 1935) did not find any clue about the name of the mansion, so they named it after the deserted village nearby.

Map, Rethymnon to Agia Galini

They could at least have borrowed the earlier name of the village, Pirgiotissa (loosely translated as “The Tower Lady”). The Minoan mansion of Pirgiotissa. Doesn’t it sound better? But a place can only be named once.

The mansion of Agia Triada is not as old as the first Faistos palace, nor is it as big. It was built at about the same time as the second palace of Faistos (ca 1700 BC) and was in fact very much in its shadow. It might have been the summer residence of the Prince of Faistos, or, more likely, the base of some independent landowner of the region. Yet the treasures found here are every bit as magnificent as the findings in Knossos and the other important Minoan settlements, and they have greatly contributed to our image of the superb civilisation that flourished in Minoan Crete. Today you can see them at the Archaeological Museum of Iraklio.

Since 1902, the Italian archaeologists have brought to light everything you can imagine! At the Reception Room they found some of the most impressive naturalistic frescos of Minoan art. Their graceful elegance is evident in the picture of the priestess standing in front of an altar in an idyllic landscape full of wild flowers. Somewhere around, a hungry cat stalks a pheasant with utmost concentration. Right next to this room is the Lord’s Office .

Agia Triada

Here the archaeologists found many clay seals, apparently used on the lord’s... business mail and on the parcels he received. At the Treasury they found nineteen big tàlanda, large bronze pieces weighing twenty-nine kilos each and used in business transactions. Inside the Bedroom they found a bench made of plaster, which served as a kind of bed frame, and the oil lamps that once gave the room their soft light. At the west side of the Altar Court and close to the Royal Apartments (which were on the second floor, right above the Reception Room), the archaeologists found two rità (ritual vessels) made of steatite (a soft rock mineral). These bore some relief representations of everyday scenes that have now become famous. On the first, a group of men return home after the harvest to the sound of music, and on the second a group of athletes practise wrestling, boxing and bull leaping. At the Servants’ Quarters, a wonderful steatite cup was brought to light, depicting a lively children’s game: the King and his soldiers. The Main Storerooms were full of large jars with carved or engraved decorative themes. (These were used to store away the wine, the oil, and all the tasty things that went into the meals that the occupants of the mansion enjoyed in their symposia). Finally, the Sanctuary gave us three ritual vessels with snake-shaped handles and traces of a wonderful floor mosaic with octopuses and dolphins which the archaeologists have managed to preserve.

But the most amazing finding, which told us the most about the Minoan religion, is the box-shaped Sarcophagus (stone coffin) found in a rectangular grave at the cemetery near the house (about 150 metres to the northwest of it). This is covered on all four sides with painted representations, not yet fully interpreted, concerning the rituals and beliefs of the Minoans when it comes to death. On one of its long sides you can see two priestesses sacrificing a bull to the sound of music. The bull is tied on the altar and his blood is carefully collected in a vessel. On the other side you can see a priestess making a libation to the gods.

Agia Triada. Scene on a ritual vessel

She is accompanied by a musician and a second priestess carrying sacred vessels, and she is surrounded by several sacred symbols related to the beliefs of the Minoans about the afterlife and to their funeral customs (these include the double axe, a vessel with fruit, an altar and a tree). At the other end the deceased receives the presents of three youths: a ship (on which to travel to the “Islands of the Happy Ones”) and two calves (to eat during his voyage). Finally, on the two smaller sides there are some strange chariots. They are driven by women and pulled by griffins, the mythological animals that had the body of a lion and the wings of an eagle. Obviously, inside the sarcophagus must have been a very important person. Yet the artist who decorated it never thought of carving the name of its occupant...


The Agia Triada mansion was destroyed at the same time as the palaces of Knossos and Faistos, and obviously by the same cause. It was replaced with a considerably smaller Mègaro (mansion) of the Mycenaean type, which must have been some sort of cult centre since it was full of votive statues.

The settlement north of the Agia Triada mansion, however, continued to exist even after the mansion was destroyed (see the area marked by the dotted line on our sketch). At its east side you can still see a row of eight shops (9) that served the needs of the people. Then the place was abandoned for many centuries, and it was once again inhabited during the Hellenistic years, at which time a temple was built here in honour of Zeus Velchaios. During the Roman years some art lover built his villa at this place and it seems there was also a settlement. During the Venetian and the Turkish rule there was a village of 150 people, mostly Christians, but in 1897 the Turks attacked the village and slaughtered its entire population. In our modern era, especially in the last ten years, the place is “attacked” by the one thousand people that come here daily. Welcome to Agia Triada!


THE ROUTES THE ROUTES

Routes starting from Hania

Hania
1. Hania - Akrotiri
2. Hania - Paleochora
3. Hania - Sameria
4. Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
5. Hania - Kissamos (Kasteli)

Routes starting from Kissamos
Kissamos (Kasteli)
6. Kissamos - Gramvoussa
7. Kissamos - Elafonissos
8. Kissamos - Paleochora (through the Topolian Gorge)
9. Kissamos - Paleochora (through Episkopi)
10. Kissamos - Sirikari

Routes starting from Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
11. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (travelling inland)
12. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (following the coast)

Routes starting from Rethimno (Rethymnon)
Rethimno (Rethymnon)
13. Rethimno - Ierapetra (following the south coast)
14. Rethimno - Ierapetra (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Ierapetra
Ierapetra
15. Ierapetra - Zakros (coastal road)
16. Ierapetra - Zakros (inland route)

Routes starting from Iraklio (Heraklion)
Iraklio (Heraklion)
17. Heraklion - Rethymnon (coastal road)
18. Heraklion - Rethymnon (travelling inland)
19.Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (coastal road)
20. Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
21. Agios Nikolaos - Zakros


Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.

 

 

Tip of the day

Naxos. “Big Sweet has this island, virtuous are the faces of people, piles are shaped by melons, peaches, figs and the sea is calm. I looked at the people - never this people have been frightened by earthquakes or by Turks, and their eyes did not burn out.
Here freedom had extinguished the need for freedom, and life spread out as happy sleeping water. And if sometimes was discomposed, never rose tempest. Safety was the first gift of island that I felt as walking around Nàxos." (N. Kazantzakis, "Report to El.Greko").
Náxos is the biggest and the greenest island in Cyclades with impressively high mountains, fertile valleys, lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and traditional villages perched high on mountain tops, where the inhabitants still wear their traditional dress and live off the fruits of the land! Náxos is also an island of beautifulold churches, monasteries and Venetian castles coexisting harmoniously with Cycladic cubic houses. Explore traditional villages spread around the island, with a particular, “magical” character: Apérathos is a colourful mountainous village boasting five museums, stone-built houses, beautiful squares and narrow alleys paved with marble, and Panayia Drosiani, a beautiful church of the Early Christian Period!

 

 

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