Lions Square and Morosini Fountain in Heraklion

A Glimpse of the Brilliant Venetian Medieval Architecture in Crete  

 The lively Eleftheriou Venizelou Square, popularly known as Liontaria or Lions Square is the heart of Heraklion city and the favorite gathering place for locals and visitors. Here the morning tourists arriving by ferry drink their coffee waiting for the city to wake up. Throughout the day, the place is assaulted by thousands of shoppers swarming the streets of the old town or by groups of visitors, stopping to have lunch on the terraces. In the evening, during the walking and socializing hours of the locals, the cafes and restaurants that surround Lions Square are filled to the brim, their aromas being like a magnet in the buzzing atmosphere of the city.


 Right in the center of the square, a few steps from the Basilica San Marco that houses the Art Galleries and from the elegant Loggia, currently the City Hall, there is Morosini Fountain or the Lions Fountain, one of the most famous architectural monuments in Heraklion, which has survived since Venetian rule. As for the Loggia, the construction was led by Governor-architect Francesco Morosini and the fountain was inaugurated after 14 months of work, on April 25, 1628, by the feast of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.


 Destined to meet the drinking water needs of the city of Heraklion, the fountain was at the end of a 15 km long underground aqueduct that supplied the city with water brought from Archanes on Mt Juktas. With a flow rate of 160,000 liters a day, the realization of the entire system is as simple as it is amazing, reflecting the ingenuity and skill of the Venetian engineers of the time. Due to the difference in level on the aqueduct route, the tank under the fountain fills naturally, and the water is pushed to the surface by the pressure created in the pipe in the form of a funnel upside down.


 Outside, the fountain is decorated with four lions, a symbol of Venetian power, placed on a central pedestal, through the mouth of which water gushes and is being collected in a circular basin. The pool is provided with 8 lobes, creating enough space for 30 people to fill their vessels with water at the same time. On the walls of the fountain, you can see the bas-reliefs of aquatic beings from Greek mythology - tritons, nymphs, and dolphins - as well as the noble insignia of the Doge, Duke, Counselors, and Governor Morosini himself. It seems that at the top of the monument, there was a colossal marble statue of the god Poseidon, which is believed to have been destroyed in an earthquake.


 During the Ottoman period, the fountain underwent modifications. Marble columns were added and the lobes were adapted for the Muslim ritual of washing the face, hands, and feet, which was mandatory before entering the mosque. In 1900, at the decision of the Municipal Council, the fountain was restored to its original shape. Initially, the square where it is located was named after the fountain, as an important highlight of the city. In recent years, with the repairs to the pavements and buildings in the old center, the Municipality has renamed the square Eleftheriou Venizelou, in honor of the former Prime Minister who played a major historical role in fulfilling the dream of uniting Crete with mother Greece.

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