Blue and white flag over Crete

The blue and white Greek flag was first flown over Crete on December 1, 1913 in the Firkas fortress in Chania. This celebration was attended by the Greek King Constantine I (who was a cousin of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and the British King George V on his paternal side) and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos (who was born in Chania). Two veteran warriors were raising this flag, lowering the hated Ottoman one, to the salute of 101 guns of the Greek military ships.

According to the London Treaty of May 30, 1913 which ended the First Balkan War between the Balkan Union (a military-political bloc of Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria) and the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan renounced his official rights to the island of Crete. The raising of the Greek flag in Chania in December of the same year marked the official entry of Crete into the Kingdom of Greece.

The Firkas fortress is one of the most important medieval fortifications and landmarks of the city. Stunning views of the bay from the walls of the fortress are very popular among the tourists. The fortress was built by the Venetians to protect the port of Chania from the sea. For added security, a chain was drawn between the fortress and the lighthouse on the other side of the bay. The Venetians called their fort Revellino del Porto.

The construction of the fortress began in 1610 and was completed several years before the capture of the city by the Turks in 1645. There were barracks and ammunition depots inside. It was also the headquarters of the military commandant. Around the center of courtyard is a large domed water tank that collected rainwater. On the north side of the wall, there are six arched openings with cannons protecting the harbor entrance. During the Ottoman period, the Revellino fortress was used as barracks, therefore, the name “firkas” is still used today. The word is a Grecized form of the Arabic borrowing “firka” in the Ottoman language, which in our case had 3 meanings: “crowd”, “division” and “sea squadron”. Apparently in the Ottoman time, the Cretan division of the reduced state or its headquarters was located here, therefore, the fortress had such Ottoman name.

Nowadays, the territory of the fortress belongs to the Maritime Museum of Crete (, where you can get acquainted with the history of navigation, see models of modern ships of the Greek Navy and ships of the past, naval instruments, paintings, historical photographs and model of the city, and port of Chania during the time of the Kingdom of Candia–the period when the island was a colony of the Venetian Republic. The exposition of the Battle of Crete in 1941 is of no less interest.

The Maritime Museum of Crete was founded in 1973, on the 32nd anniversary of the Battle of Crete. It is the second oldest maritime museum in Greece after the Greek Maritime Museum in Piraeus and receives around 45,000 visitors annually, but for the Cretans, the most iconic structure of the Firkas fortress is still one of the small towers on which the same Greek flag, mentioned above, flutters.

December 2020