skip to main content

Middle-Byzantine period in Crete

Nikiforos Foka's campaign and the liberation of Crete from the Saracen Arabs in 961, was an event of great magnitude not only for the island itself, but for the whole Byzantine Empire. Despite the lack of detailed sources, it seems that the liberation of Crete was a vital priority for the Byzantines. Several prominent clerics such as Athanasios the Athonite, Nikon the Metanoite and later on Ioannis the Xenos Erimitis, are actively encouraging the State to strengthen the religious convictions of the Cretans, which had waned throughout the years. These attempts had important corollaries in the art of those times.

The research on the temples of the middle-Byzantine period in Crete, shows that architecture as well as painting, are much influenced by the practices in Constantinople. Despite the fact that numerous monuments were lost during the long wars that Crete faced, with the information we have at our disposal we can assert that during the second Byzantine period (961-1204), but also during the first hundred years of the Venetian occupation, the arts flourished to levels that even surpassed other known regions of those times.

After the 4th Crusade, the isolation of Crete from the rest of the Byzantine Empire had an impact on the arts of the island as well. However, several monuments, mainly on the western part of Crete, demonstrate that its artistic evolution continued until the mid-13th century.

By Michalis G. Andrianakis