Basilica San Marco: the Temple of Art in Heraklion Old Town

Discover the House of Municipal Art Gallery in Heraklion

 In the main square of Heraklion, just a few steps away from the Loggia (The City Hall) and another architectural gem, Liontaria (Lions Fountain), you can find one of the oldest historic buildings in Crete: Vasiliki Agios Markos (Basilica San Marco / St. Mark’s Basilica), which dates back to the period of the Venetian Republic's rule and has remained standing until today.

 San Marco Basilica was established in 1239 and named after the spiritual patron of Venice, Saint Mark. It served as the metropolitan Cathedral for four centuries, until the Ottoman invasion. The building boasts slender marble columns that form three corridors, high arches that support a wooden ceiling, bas-reliefs, ornamental windows, and stone carvings around massive wooden doors. The design was inspired by the elegant Venetian architecture of the time.

 The Basilica was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation. The bell tower was destroyed, the frescoes were damaged and the Venetian nobles' tombs were desecrated. The building has suffered repeated damage and reconstruction throughout history, which has led to the loss of many of its original details.

 After the war with the Turks in 1922, the San Marco Basilica was placed under the jurisdiction of the National Bank of Greece. Later, the city administration took over the building and transformed it into the Municipal Art Gallery after its restoration and reconstruction in 1956.

 Today, the San Marco Basilica of Heraklion is a popular attraction for the general public. It hosts sculpture, painting, and photography exhibitions, theater shows, poetry recitals, musical concerts, and charity events. 

It is open to the public free of charge from Monday to Saturday, and everyone is welcome to visit.

 In this cultural temple, we had the unique chance to admire the exhibition of the famous local painter Roussetos Panakiotakis alias Roussetos, whose works reflect a modern vision of the mythological era. 

 Discover the captivating story of his exhibits, beautifully captured in our photos, in the article ”Art and Mythology at Basilica San Marco”.

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