The Venetian Port

The Venetian port of Chania, including the Venetian lighthouse, is one of the symbols of the city and a favourite walking area for locals and visitors alike.

Its original construction is placed between 1320 and 1355; however, later on, between 1353 and 1364 it was abandoned, being too shallow and overly exposed to the strong northern and western winds. From then on, the port of Heraklion, which was bigger, was upgraded as the most important one in Crete. The decline of the port of Chaniacontinued with the fall of the city to the Turks (1645), since the conquerors did not involve themselves in its maintenance or repair. 

Finally it was Muhammad Ali, the viceroy of Egypt (Crete was under Egyptian rule between 1831 and 1841) who realized the importance of the port to local economy; for that reason, he repaired the pier and conducted dredging works, which were completed in the Cretan State period. 

The Lighthouse of Chania

The lighthouse of Chaniadiffers from others of its time and cannot be classified in any standard lighthouse category. The architecture reminds one of a minaret, and it does not include a lighthouse keeper sleeping quarters, given the fact that it is located in an inhabited area.

It is 21 metres high, its beam could reach a distance of 7 miles, and it is one of the oldest lighthouses of Europe, if not of the entire world.

Its foundations were laid by the Venetians on natural rock, circa between 1595 and 1601. Many of its characteristics remind one of the local, Venetian architecture. The material used for building the city walls was also used for the construction of the lighthouse, which has an octagonal base, a 16-corner middle section and another, circular section.

In 1839 it was upgraded with the latest lighthouse technology of the time. The stairway of the eastern side and the peripheral parapet are Turkish additions./p>

The Venetian Arsenals

The Venetian shipyards (Arsenali, in Italian) were used for the repairing of ships during the winter, in the years of the Venetian rule. The largest complex was built between 1526 and 1599 and it consisted of 17 vaulted constructions. The Moro arsenals (named after the governor or Provveditore Generale) were built in 1607. Only two of them survive entire today, while the third one collapsed during the bomb-raids of 1941.

Unfortunately, of the largest complex of arsenals only seven survive, plus the Megalo Arsenali (= big arsenal), which houses the Centre for Mediterranean Architecture ( The rest were demolished during the Turkish occupation, when the role of the port had already diminished and maintenance was poor. Those which survived were used as military warehouses.

In order to understand the original use of the arsenals, one must know that they were open to the sea, which would flow into them up to a certain point. They were interconnected by way of arched openings, while one could enter them via one of two gates; the main entrance was located roughly centrally. A part of this gate survives today, at the end of Daskalogianni Street.


Nowadays, the arsenals are often put to new uses. The impressive Moro (, which was restored between 2009 and 2010, today is the headquarters of the Sailing Club of Chania, as well as one of the most significant cultural spots of the city; it frequently hosts exhibitions, performances, workshops, film screenings etc.

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Additional Info

  • location Old Port, city of Chania, Chania, Chania
  • type Architecture, Lighthouse
  • time period Venetians, Turkish Occupation
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