The Historical Museum of Crete (HMC) was founded in 1953 by the Society of Cretan Historical Studies (SCHS) and is housed in a neoclassical building of exceptional architectural value. It chronicles seventeen centuries of local history and culture, spanning from the early years of Christianity to the modern era. SCHS originally founded the museum with the aim of compiling and preserving valuable archaeological, ethnographic and historical material from the medieval and early modern history of Crete.
Today, the HMC offers a composite picture of Cretan History and Art from the early years of Christianity to the 20th century. The periodical exhibitions cover a wide range of themes, from Byzantine to modern art, showcasing key literary figures in Greece (Elytis, Kazantzakis), and presenting major historical events from the late 19th century to World War II. At the same time, the Museum offers free educational programs which are constantly being enriched and constitute a creative source of knowledge in relation to the Museum’s Permanent Collections and Temporary Exhibitions. Lectures, scientific symposia, film screenings and book presentations held in the Amphitheater complement the HMC’s operation, making it an extrovert, multi-faceted, cultural organization.
Byzantine art and culture, the periods of Venetian and Ottoman rule, the era of revolution on the path towards unification with Greece, World War II, the Battle of Crete and the Resistance, as well as folklore of the Cretan countryside are showcased through selected exhibits in combination with rich instructional material and multimedia.
El Greco’s “Baptism of Christ” (1569) and “View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine” (1570), which are his only works on display in Crete, are among the crowning exhibits. A different section is the Nikos Kazantzakis Collection, with personal items and manuscripts of the Cretan writer. A special exhibit at the start of the visit is the large model of the city of Chandax (Heraklion), dating back to the mid-17th century. The Museum offers audio tour guides in 5 languages (Greek, English, French, German and Russian) and has a Café and a Gift Shop.
The HMC’s collections include:
- The Medieval and Renaissance Collection
- The Fights for Freedom Collection
- The Ethnographic Collection
- The Nikos Kazantzakis Room
- The Emmanouil Tsouderos Room
- The A.G. Kalokairinos Room
- Introduction to Christian times in Crete
- A tour of Chandax (Heraklion) in the 17th century
- The Ceramics Room