Art and Mythology at Basilica San Marco

Greek Mythology in Modern Painting at Basilica San Marco in Heraklion 

 In the main square of Heraklion, Eleftherios Venizelos, a few steps from the Loggia (City Hall) and another architectural jewel, Liontaria (Lions Fountain), there is one of the oldest historical buildings in Crete, Vasiliki Agios Markos (Basilica San Marco / St. Mark’s Basilica), remained from the period of the domination of the Venetian Republic.

Basilica San Marco, the House of Municipal Art Gallery

 Founded in 1239 and dedicated to the spiritual patron of Venice, San Marco/ Saint Mark, the imposing construction served, for four centuries, until the great Ottoman invasion, as the central cathedral of the city. The slender marble columns forming three corridors, the high arches supporting the wooden ceiling, the frescoes, bas-reliefs, and ornamental windows, the stone carvings around the massive wooden doors, were replicas inspired by the refined Venetian architecture of the times.


 Converted into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation, in which the bell tower was demolished, the frescoes were broken and the tombs of the Venetian nobles desecrated, shaken by earthquakes and bombings, the building has suffered, throughout history, repeated damage and reconstruction stages, thus losing many of its original details.

 After the war with the Turks, in 1922, it was taken under the jurisdiction of the National Bank of Greece, and later, the city administration, after the restoration and reconstruction in 1956, gave the building back to the community, transforming it into the Municipal Art Gallery.


 Today, the San Marco Basilica of Heraklion permanently attracts the general public, also hosting exhibitions of sculpture, painting and photography, theater shows, poetry recitals, musical concerts, and charitable events, offering free admission from Monday to Saturday, to all visitors.

Mythological Eve in Modern Vision, at Roussetos Painting Exhibition

 Therefore we stopped, on a beautiful March afternoon, to visit the exhibition of the famous local painter, Roussetos (Roussetos Panakiotakis), which seemed very interesting, from the poster at the entrance.

We discovered a complex, versatile artist, combining the classic-modern styles, in an original and personal way, sometimes even extravagant. His paintings carry philosophical symbols and meanings, transforming the ancestral myths into objective reality and "capturing" the collective mind in scenes full of fantasy and subtle humor.


 In front of his paintings, the viewer acquires a new vision; The impressive mythological scenes with the Knossos Palace, the Labyrinth, the Minotaur, the Gods, the Kings, the Heroes, the Humans, and their transient works, become an imaginary bridge to the past, a message for the present and a moment of reflection for the future.

 The centerpiece of the exhibition depicts a scene of life from the Knossos Palace, painted in an iconographic style, with features, details, and firm color. As the artist confessed, the work was completed after two years of documentary research at the museums of archeology and history in Athens and Heraklion, and six other months of painting work itself. Using scientific evidence, Roussetos faithfully reconstructed the architecture and decorations of the palace, the clothing, and ornaments of women and men, the pots with food and offerings.


 With Roussetos, we entered a universe in which the ancestral memory, the historical sources, and the current reality suddenly met. Not only as a graphic form but especially through its intellectual, emotional, and spiritual content, his work represents an ode to the primordial and immortal values of existence: nature, peace, beauty, love, and life.


 Heraklion is a city full of artists and their works, inspired by mythology, history, and traditions. Whenever you take a walk through the city center, we recommend you stop at the Municipal Art Gallery in the San Marco Basilica and browse the artwork on display. Undoubtedly, art is food for the soul and mind.