In the partition of the Byzantine empire after the capture of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Crete was eventually acquired by Venice, which held it for more than four centuries. During Venetian rule, the Greek population of Crete was exposed to Renaissance culture. A thriving literature in the Cretan dialect of Greek developed on the island. The best-known work from this period is the poem Erotokritos by Vitsentzos Kornaros (Βιτσένζος Κορνάρος). Another major Cretan literary figure was Nicholas Kalliakis (1645-1707), a Greek scholar and philosopher who flourished in Italy in the 17th Century.[2] Georgios Hortatzis was author of the dramatic work Erophile. The painter Domenicos Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco, was born in Crete in this period and was trained in Byzantine iconography before moving to Italy and later, Spain.
Nicholas Kalliakis (1645-1707) Cretan born Greek Scholar and philosopher.[3]

During the 17th century, Venice was pushed out of Crete by the Ottoman Empire, with most of the island lost after the siege of Candia (1648-1669), possibly the longest siege in history. The last Venetian outpost on the island, Spinalonga, fell in 1718, and Crete was a part of the Ottoman Empire for the next two centuries. There were significant rebellions against Ottoman rule, particularly in Sfakia. Daskalogiannis was a famous rebel leader. One result of the Ottoman conquest was that a sizeable proportion of the population gradually converted to Islam, with its tax and other civic advantages in the Ottoman system. Contemporary estimates vary, but on the eve of the Greek War of Independence as much as 45% of the population of the island may have been Muslim.[4] Some of them were crypto-Christians who converted back to Christianity; others fled Crete because of the unrest. By the last Ottoman census in 1881, Christians were 76% of the population, and Muslims (usually called "Turks" regardless of language, culture, and ancestry) only 24%. Christians were over 90% of the population in 19/23 of the districts of Crete, but Muslims were over 60% in the three large towns on the north coast, and in Monofatsi.[5]
Kara Musa Pasha Mosque in Rethymnon (Resmo during the Ottoman period)

The Greek War of Independence began in 1821 and Cretan participation was extensive. An uprising by Christians met with a fierce response from the Ottoman authorities and the execution of several bishops, regarded as ringleaders. Between 1821 and 1828, the island was the scene of repeated hostilities. The Muslims were driven into the large fortified towns on the north coast and it would appear that as many as 60% of them died from plague or famine while there. The Cretan Christians also suffered severely, losing around 21% of their population. In the 1830s, Crete was an impoverished and backward island.[citation needed]

As the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II, had no army of his own available, he was forced to seek the aid of his rebellious vassal and rival, Muhammad Ali of Egypt, who sent an expedition to the island. Britain decided that Crete should not become part of the new Kingdom of Greece on its independence in 1830, evidently fearing that it would either become a centre of piracy as it had often been in the past, or a Russian naval base in the East Mediterranean. In 1832, a Greek state was established which, however, did not include Crete; the island was administered by an Albanian from Egypt, Giritli Mustafa Naili Pasha (known as Mustafa Pasha), whose rule attempted to create a synthesis of Muslim landowners and the emergent Christian commercial classes. Though subsequent Greek nationalist historiography has portrayed the Pasha as an oppressive figure, as reported by British and French consular observers, he seems to have been generally cautious, pro-British, and to have tried harder to win the support of the Cretan Christians (having married the daughter of a priest and allowed her to remain Christian) than the Cretan Muslims. In 1834 however a Cretan committee was set up in Athens to work for the union of the island with Greece.

In 1840, Egypt was forced by Palmerston to return Crete to direct Ottoman rule. Mustafa Pasha angled unsuccessfully to become semi-independent Prince of Greece but the Christian Cretans instead of supporting rose up against him, once more driving the Muslims temporarily into siege in the towns. An Anglo-Ottoman naval operation restored control in the island and Mustafa Pasha was confirmed as the governor of the island, though under command from Istanbul. He remained there until 1851 when he was summoned to Istanbul, where though of relatively advanced age (his early fifties) he had a successful career, becoming Grand Vizier several times.

Cretan Pottery

In Creta pottery, observing the materials, the forms and the technique of the manufacture (specifically of big jars) but also the way of ceramics baking that our ancient ancestors used, you feel that this unique pottery art has passed through centuries without radical changes and is continued even today.

Creta Ceramics

The Cretan pottery makers were traveling, in well organized groups, around the island bringing together all required equipment and setting up hole new ceramics laboratories in the areas they visited. In this way they served the exact needs of remote areas while it had proved much easier to carry the pottery equipment than carry the bulky and heavy pots around the island with donkeys...

read more

creta ceramics