by George K. Dalidakis*
Many visitors to Sfakia often come across monuments that are obviously of some historical significance to the people of the area but due to lack of readily available information they are unable to appreciate the contribution of those that the monuments were erected for.
This presentation will attempt to address this lack of information by giving a brief background to those that the monuments honour including photographs and the location of where these monuments are. The order of presentation will follow the direction that a visitor will take wandering around Sfakia having approached the district from the north from Chania.
Monument of the uprisings of 1770-1821-1867-1895
Most visitors to Sfakia will miss noticing this monument as they are about to head uphill towards the Katreas pass leading into Sfakia. It stands at the Krapi plateau on the left hand side of the road, where the church of Agios Ioannis Rigologos is.
The monument was erected in 1986 to commemorate four of the uprisings against the Turks. In 1770 Daskalogiannis and his rebels gathered there and after celebrating Easter on the 4th of April 1770 at the church of Agios Ioannis commenced their fateful attacks against the Turks that resulted in their defeat, the destruction of Sfakia and the barbarous execution of Daskalogiannis. In this same location on the 18th of July 1821 and at the Katre pass just south of it a small Sfakian band of rebels routed a much larger Turkish force that had invaded Askifou and had them running to safety away from Sfakia. In 1866 the official declaration of another uprising took place in the nearby area (see next monument) and on the 10th of September 1895 a Revolutionary Congress of more than 1,000 rebels gathered there and issued their demand to the Great Powers for Crete to be freed from the Ottoman Empire. This lead to Crete gaining its autonomy a few years later, in 1898.
Having passed through the Katre pass we are now approaching the Askifou plateau with our first stop at the large church on our left.
Monument of the 1866-67 uprising
|Located in the yard of the church of the Sfakian saints, Manolis and Ioannis, at Kares in Askifou|
The monument commemorates the start of the 1866 uprising on the 21st of August of that year, at the nearby location of the Sykia Mountain where the Revolutionary Congress issued its official declaration for a general uprising of all Cretan people with the ultimate aim of Union with Greece. The monument was unveiled on the one hundredth anniversary of this historic event and took place on the same day with the dedication of the newly erected church to the two Sfakian Saints.
Further down the road, if we were to turn left following the directions to the War Museum of the late Giorgos Xatzidakis, a bit further down from the museum and to our right we come across the next monument.
Monument to those fallen in the Sfakian attack against the Janissary Ibrahim Alidakis
In 1774 at this location a large gathering of Sfakia men and women under the leadership of Anagnostis Manusakas from Impros, after receiving the blessings of their priests, descended on Emprosnero and attacked the fort of the Turko-Cretan Janissary Alidakis who was preparing to invade Sfakia and take over the flocks and pastures of the Sfakians. This pre-emptive strike by the Sfakians resulted in the killing of Alidakis and his army of more than 200 mercenaries. The Sfakians lost 18 men and 2 women that had fought alongside the men. The monument commemorates the gathering at this location and honours the memory of the Sfakians fallen in this battle.
Getting back onto the main road leading south, at the intersection of the two roads that one leads to Amoudari and the other to Imbros and Chora Sfakion, there is a recent monument for members of the Karkanis family.
Monument of the Karkanis family
On the left is the monument of Mihail I. Karkanis, Military Commander who fought during the whole duration of the Epiros liberation campaign where he was decorated.
There is a separate monument, on the right, to three members of the Karkanis family that died fighting for the liberation of Macedonia. These are:
Pavlos M. Karkanis, died fighting on 8.7.1906 at Lehobo Florinas
Ioannis S. Karkanis and Efstratios S. Karkanis, both died on 6.2.1908 at Besista in Northern Macedonia
Now we take the right fork at the intersection of the two roads and we enter the neighbourhood of Amoudari and stop at the small square where three monuments stand.
Monument of Giorgos Tsondos – Vardas
A distinguished military leader and Member of Parliament, Giorgos Tsondos (1871-1941) was from the Tsondos family of Askifou (there is another one from Aradena), all having distinguished themselves in fighting against the Turks. He participated in the Cretan rebellion of 1895-98 and then fought in charge of bands of irregular volunteer Greek forces in Macedonia (1904-1908), at the time occupied by the Turks, over control of the area against Bulgarian irregulars. It was during this conflict that he adopted the nom de guerre Kapetan Vardas, a tradition followed at the time amongst guerrilla units. He later fought as a member of the all-volunteer “Independent Cretan Regiment” with the rank of major during the First Balkan War (1912-1913) against the Turks which resulted in Greece expanding its borders north and eastwards, capturing a large part of Macedonia, including Salonika. He fought again in 1914 in charge of Greek irregular forces in northern Epirus against Albanian forces during a period when Greece was trying to annex an area largely occupied by a Greek speaking Orthodox population.
In 1921 he was appointed commander of the Military Academy in Athens with the rank of Colonel and by 1927 he had reached the rank of Lieutenant General. In 1932 he entered briefly into politics and was elected three times to the Greek Parliament representing the areas of Florina and Kastoria where he had fought previously against Bulgarian irregulars. In 1935 he was appointed Governor General of Crete, a ministerial role with responsibility for governing the entire island where he served for a brief period. He died in Athens in 1941.
Below the monument is a listing of 30 men from the area that fought with Tsondos in northern Greece, 7 of which died heroically during this struggle.
Monument of Stavrianos Polentas – Sisanes
Well known in Crete also as Capetan Sisanes, Stavrianos Polentas (1856-1959) became known at the early age of 21 for his shooting prowess with a rifle, known at the time as Sisanes, because of its hexagonal gun barrel. During the 1878 uprising against the Turks he excelled in the battle of Fres and soon he became known as “O Sisanes”, because of his rifle. Again he demonstrated his fighting ability in a battle against the Turks during the brief 1889 uprising. By the time of the next uprising of 1895-1898 that resulted in Crete gaining its autonomy, Polentas had gained the leadership position of Kapetanios with his own Sfakian rebel band and he again demonstrated his fighting skills in a number of battles during the whole period of the uprising.
During the period of the Cretan Autonomy (1898-1913) he was involved in politics and in December 1909 he was elected to the Cretan Assembly as representative of the district of Sfakia where he served at different times until 1912. He then joined the all-volunteer “Independent Cretan Regiment” in Greece and fought during the First Balkan War (1912-1913) against the Turks in northern Greece. He joined again with many other Sfakians the Greek irregular forces in 1914 in northern Epirus to fight against Albanian forces during a period when Greece was trying to annex an area largely occupied by a Greek speaking Orthodox population.
After his return to Sfakia he lived peacefully until the Nazi invasion of 1941, by then an old, but healthy 85 years old. His age prevented him from taking up to the mountains to fight together with the other andartes, but he always provided his guidance and advice where needed. But when the opportunity came up, during one of the last battles against the Nazis at Vafes in December 1944, he joined others from Askifou who rushed there on foot to join the battle but by the time they arrived the battle was over. All were surprised to see the 90 year old arriving there ready to fight. When others admired his feat, he conceded that his achievement was not that great, he had allowed his nephew to carry his machine gun to help him make it in time!
When he died he was more than 100 years old. According to his wish he was buried at the churchyard of the chapel that himself built, the Agio Pnevma, at Tavris on the Niato plateau. On his grave one can read his last wish.
I am tired of fighting with my gun in my hand,
I want to go to sleep in the land of my ancestors,
And that’s why I left a request, at Tavri, at Agio Pnevma, to finally rest.
Monument of Andreas Polentas
Andreas Polentas’ family moved from Askifou to Vryses in 1915 where Andreas was born. After finishing High School he moved to Athens where he enrolled at the Athens University to study law. His democratic beliefs came into clash with the dictatorship of the Metaxas Government of the time (1936-1941) so he left Athens for Crete to avoid being arrested by the authorities. He participated in the unsuccessful 29 July 1938 Chania insurrection against the Metaxas dictatorship but he avoided capture again. When Greece was attacked by Italy on 28 October 1940 he enlisted and fought in northern Epirus against the invader but when the Greek front collapsed with the attack by the Nazis he joined the other retreating forces and returned to Crete.
Three weeks after the takeover of Crete by the Nazis, on the 14th of June 1941, he formed with others the first resistance movement in Crete, the AEAK (Anotate Epitrope Agonos Kretes – Supreme Committee of Cretan Struggle) of which he became its General Secretary. He was actively involved in coordinating the rescue and evacuation of many allied soldiers that were left behind after the evacuation of Crete and with collecting sensitive information about Nazi military strength and movements for passing on to the resistance and to the British agents operating on the island. One of the sources of information about enemy activities was a mainland Greek working as translator for the Nazis who, unfortunately for the Cretans, had been turned into a double agent who supplied information to them about the activities of AEAK. On the 14th of November 1942 the Nazis arrested Polentas and another two members of the resistance. After interrogating them under torture for more than a month the three were executed at the Agya prison on the 21st of December 1942.
His betrayal was avenged by three Sfakians, two of them cousins from the Polentas family, who killed the traitor a few months later. Under the monument there is a plaque listing the names of 9 locals killed by the Nazis during the occupation.
We now get back on the new road heading south and soon reach the next monument that stands to our right, opposite the Askifou cemetery.
Monument of the uprisings of 1770-1774-1821-1866
This is another monument commemorating the leading role that Sfakians had in the four uprisings against the Turks. Details of those events have been covered earlier under the Krapi and Kares monuments.
There is another monument that has been erected further down the road, and to our right. This is located about two hundred meters south of the previous monument, at a road intersection where the road to the left heads towards Ghoni. The monument stands at the top of a road to our right.
Monument of the two Gryllakis cousins
This monument was raised in memory of two cousins who were executed by the Nazis. The two cousins from the Askifou family of the same name, teenagers at the time of the Nazi invasion, took arms immediately after the occupation and were actively involved in ambushes, sabotage and gathering of military intelligence against the occupier. They were pursued by the Nazis who eventually captured them at the church of Agios Ioannis at Krapi. They were brought to Askifou where they were executed on the 21st of July 1943. Manousos Gryllakis was 19 and his cousin, Giorgos, was 20 when they were killed. Two weeks later the Nazis captured the father of Manousos, Costas Gryllakis whom they killed also.
The monument was raised on the exact location of where the two were executed by the brother of Manousos, Giorgos Gryllakis, in 1997. An inscription at the top of the monument reads:
“The brave you should not mourn”
Going back down to the main road and taking the left turn towards Ghoni, and heading towards the game and horse riding facilities that one can see down in the valley, when we reach a yellow large house with a yellow windmill type of building, about one hundred meters to its north there is a fenced area where under a large plane tree stands a monument that was raised late in 2009.
Monument of Manousos Koundouros
A lawyer and politician, Manousos Koundouros (1860-1930), born in Chora Sfakion, was the leading force in the push for the granting of Autonomy to Crete, as a first stage to the eventual Union with Greece. The rejection of this movement by the Turks lead to another armed uprising in 1895 which eventually prompted the intervention of the Great Powers and the granting of Autonomy to Crete in December 1898. He was a member of the first government of the Autonomous Cretan State as minister of foreign affairs and transport. His conflict over the role of the High Commissioner in that government with the other famous Cretan politician, Eleftherios Venizelos, cost him his progress in Cretan and Greek politics. Koundouros acted as Governor General of Crete, a ministerial role with responsibility for governing the entire island, during the years 1922-26 during a period when Venizelos was in exile. A great politician that unfortunately for him, and for Crete, he chose to take positions against the other great Cretan politician, Venizelos.
In September 1895, during the early days of the uprising over the Autonomy issue he planted a plane tree in the yard of his father’s home in Askifou. In his diary at the time, he wrote that he wished that the tree would live for centuries, to bring freedom to Crete, and if his wishes were to be fulfilled, for the tree to become a monument for the uprising against the Turks.
A stone wall enclosure and a stone plaque that informs the visitor of Koundouros role and his wish in planting the tree were erected late in 2009 to commemorate his role and his planting of that tree.
Coming back to the main road we now continue south, soon approaching the village of Imbros where on our left hand there is a church, in the yard of which there is a monument to the many members of the Manousogiannakis family that valiantly fought for Crete and Greece.
Monument of the Manousogiannakis family
Inscribed on the monument are the names of:
Achieved the highest military rank of Stratarchis, equivalent to that of Field Marshal, and participated in all the uprisings against the Turks from 1821 until his death in 1881. He was one of the members of the “Philike Hetairia”, the secret revolutionary association that spearheaded the Greek uprising against the Turks in 1821. For more details see further on at his monument at the Imbros village
Military commander during the 1866-69 uprising
Military commander during the 1866-69 uprising, also a member of the Cretan provisional government.
Military commander, died in battle in 1892.
Lt. General, participated in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. Prior to that he was part of the volunteer force that arrive from Greece to take part in the 1897 uprising against the Turks that resulted in Crete gaining autonomy in 1898. He served as Minister for the Army in 1909. For more details see further on at his monument at the Imbros village
On the side of same monument there are also the names of:
Fought and died in the battle of Eski Sehir in Asia Minor in 1922, aged 25.
Fought and died during the Nazi invasion during the battle of Galata in 1941, aged 24.
Upon reaching the village of Imbros, on our right, there is an enclosure where there are six monuments of Sfakians from Imbros.
Monuments of the village of Imbros
Within the rear part of the enclosure we can see the following monuments:
Monument of Giorgos Xenoudakis
Giorgios Xenoudakis was a great Sfakian benefactor from Impros (1810-1888) who left his estate for the building of schools and for other educational purposes to the district of Sfakia.
His true surname is not known because as a young boy in 1821 he saw his family being killed by the Turks, he was enslaved and eventually he was sold as a slave to Egypt. There he was spotted by a Frenchman who noticed his bright and clever nature and who bought his freedom and took him to France. He grew up there and studied Law and eventually returned to Crete to practice as a lawyer. He was given the surname Xenoudakis as he could not remember his paternal surname, this surname deriving from Xenos, xenaki, xenoudaki, a loving reference for someone from another place.
Because of the ongoing persecutions by the Turks he, together with many other Cretans, left Crete and initially settled on the island of Milos where he entered into business, eventually moving to Athens where he became quite wealthy. He assisted financially the many uprisings in Crete against the Turks and in 1881 he was elected to the Greek Parliament to represent the many Cretans living in Greece. In Parliament he strongly advocated for the liberation of Crete from Turkish rule and its union with Greece.
Upon his death in 1888 he left all his estate for the building of schools in all the villages of Sfakia, including the first high school for the district in Chora Sfakion. There was also provision made for the payment for teachers, for school meals for the children attending classes, as well as for the funding of scholarships for further education. The estate still provides funding for educational purposes in Sfakia.
He was buried in the grounds of the school which he funded at Imbros and where a marble bust of Xenoudakis exists today. This is the first monument erected in his memory, a second monument having been erected later on within the enclosure of the monuments of the village of Imbros. Xenoudakis is the only Sfakian in whose honour two monuments have been raised in Sfakia.
Monument of Nikolaos Psarros
Nikolaos Psarros (1884-1952) was another distinguished military leader from Sfakia having fought during the First Balkan War (1912-1913) against the Turks in northern Greece. He joined again with many other Sfakians the Greek irregular forces in 1914 in northern Epirus to fight against Albanian. There he was also given the task of training 700 Greeks from northern Epirus to form the first northern Epirus Greek battalion. After the end of this campaign he rejected an offer to join the regular Greek army and returned to Crete. With the commencement of fighting against Turkey in 1919 he joined again the Greek armed forces where he served until the end of the war. He fought again in the battle of Crete against the Nazi invaders and he was active in the resistance.
Monument of Anastasios Chobitis
A General of the Gendarmerie and at a time Governor General of Crete, Anastasios Chobitis (1895-1990) commenced his military career when he joined the all-volunteer “Independent Cretan Regiment” in Greece and fought during the First Balkan War (1912-1913) against the Turks in northern Greece. During the Greek war against Turkey in Asia Minor he served as an officer of the Gendarmerie where he was awarded gallantry medals several times. During the period 1928-1932 he assumed responsibility for the personal safety of the Prime Minister of Greece, the Cretan Eleftherios Venizelos. Following the Nazi invasion of Crete in 1941 he became active in the underground resistance and after the liberation in 1945 he was appointed in charge of the Gendarmerie for the whole island of Crete. In 1948 he was appointed to the position of Governor General of Crete, a ministerial role with responsibility for governing the entire island.
Monument to those fallen during the period 1940-1945
A simple marble plaque lists the names and dates of 10 of the local community members that died during the WWII fighting and the subsequent occupation of the island. Also listed below are the names of two who died during the civil war during the years 1948-1949.
On the front part of the enclosure there are the monuments of two members of the Manousogiannakis family:
Monument of Anagnostis Manousogiannakis
He was one of the biggest military figures of the uprisings during the 19th century in Crete against the Turks. He became a member of the “Philike Hetairia” and was active in the discussions about the need for an uprising that eventually took place in 1821. He participated in the first meetings in Crete of the elders in April 1821 at Loutro and was present at the official proclamation of the uprising at PanagiaThymiani monastery near Komitades in Sfakia on the 27th of May 1821. In July 1821, following the first battles with the Turks in Sfakia, he was elected to lead the andartes of Imbros and took action against the Turks away from Sfakia in the eastern districts of the island as well as around Sfakia. At the next uprising in 1841, when the new military leadership was installed, because of his exemplary contribution and leadership qualities, he was awarded the highest rank of Stratarhis (military rank equivalent to that of Field Marshal). At the commencement of the 1858 uprising he was elected as General Commander at the meeting at Boutsanaria and led the negotiations with the Turks regarding their just grievances. Following the collapse of this uprising he had to leave for Athens but despite his advanced age he was back to participate in the largest and most dramatic of uprisings, that of 1866-69. In April 1866 he was elected as member of the Revolutionary Congress that commenced negotiations with the Turks but when these failed on the 21st of April 1866 the Congress declared, from near Askifou, the start of the uprising. The Turks eventually invaded Sfakia in late 1866 and the members of the Congress had to flee from place to place. At one stage the members of the Congress offered him the leadership position but by then, due to advanced age, he was 80 years old by then, he declined this honor but continued with his support until the tragic end of the uprising.
Monument of Emmanouil (Manolis) Manousogiannakis.
Lt. General, commander of army divisions that participated in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. Minister for the Army in 1909. (1853-1916).
A graduate of the Greek Military Academy and career officer with the Greek army, he was a Major when he took part in the volunteer force that arrived in Crete in January 1897 that declared that they were taking control of Crete in the name of the King of Greece. He took part in a number of battles in the western part of Crete but the Greek forces were obliged to withdraw from the island following the intervention of the Great Powers. Nevertheless, this uprising resulted in Crete gaining its autonomy from the Ottoman state the following year. He resumed his military career in Greece and in 1909 he served as Minister for the Army in the short lived Greek government of D. Rallis. He took part in the First Balkan War in 1912-13 in charge of an army division, having been promoted to the rank of Major General by then, was successful in a number of battles against the Turks and was amongst those that took over Thessaloniki in October 1912. In the ensuing battles against the Bulgarians in June –July 1913 he took part in a number of successful battles against the enemy that resulted in Greece extending its borders in a northern and eastern direction. Following the conclusion of the war he was again promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and was appointed in charge of the Second Army Corps. He died in 1916 while still in active duty.
In the Imbros gorge, to our left, there is another monument to the victims of one on the many massacres committed by the Turks against the fleeing civilians during one of the many uprisings of the 19th century.
Monument to the Sfakians from Komitades
This is a monument to the Sfakians that were killed at the cave above this location where they sought refuge from the Turkish army of Omer Pasha in 1869. The cave is known locally as “ton Komithianon e Hora” or “Gypes”
We will now return a small distance back the way we came to take the Asfendou-Kallikratis road, heading to the tragic village of Kallikratis. Soon after entering the village of Kallikratis, on a right turn, to our right there is an old church where two monuments stand in its yard.
Monument of Papa-Sifis of Kallikratis
A legendary figure and much respected priest of the village of Kallikratis, he encouraged the Sfakians in 1774 to take arms against the much feared Turko-Cretan Janissary Ibrahim Alidakis that resulted in the killing of Alidakis and his army of more than 200 mercenaries. This victory revived the Sfakian’s fighting spirit after their devastation following the 1770 uprising of Daskalogiannis and the destruction of Sfakia. See also the previously described monument to those fallen in the Sfakian attack against the Janissary Imbrahim Alidakis, at Askifou. He was killed by the Turks in 1820, a year before the next uprising, in front of his three sons.
Monument of Bishop Grigorios Papadopetrakis
At an early age Grigorios Papadopetrakis (1828-1889) entered into monastic life at Agia Triada Monastery at Acrotiri where he studied theology and later became the Abbot of the same monastery for a number of years. He got involved with the revolutionary movement in Crete and served as Chairman of the Revolutionary Congress of 1866 and again in 1878. In 1880 he was elected to the position of Bishop in the eastern part of the island. He wrote the first ever History of Sfakia that was published in 1888, a year before his death. Both the monuments of Papa-Sifis and Papadopetrakis were unveiled in 2002.
Further down the road, on the left, we come across one of the most tragic monuments in Sfakia.
Monument to those executed in the village by the Nazis
On the 8th of October 1943 a large Nazi force in pursuit of resistance fighters from the Heraklion district surrounded the village and arrested all those that had not fled the approaching forces. 19 men and 8 women were executed on that day, the Nazis sparing only the priest and an invalid villager. After the execution they took away any produce and goods that they could carry and set the village on fire, destroying everything behind them.
This monument was erected to honour those who were killed on that occasion and stands as a bitter reminder to all of the brutality of war. On the front side of the monument are inscribed the 27 names of those executed on that day and below, in a glassed enclosure, are the skulls and bones of some of those executed. On the left side of the monument are the names of 20 people from Kallikratis that were killed fighting during the campaigns in Macedonia, Asia Minor and Albania.
The road now continues towards the coast and after a challenging descent down the mountain we arrive firstly at Patsianos, the winter village of the people of Kallikratis, and from there we head towards the old Venetian fort, the Frangokastello.
Outside the 14th century Venetian fort of Frangokastello stand two monuments to two remarkable fighters who participated in the heroic fight against large Turkish forces in May 1828. Also close to these two monuments there is another monument with two marble plaques erected there in memory of some others from the nearby village of Patsianos.
Monument of Hatzi-Michales Ntalianis
A celebrated fighter from northern Greece, he came to Crete early in 1828 with his army of 600 men and 100 cavalry to assist the Cretans in their uprising against the Turks that after 6 years of struggle it was faltering. Ntalianis and his army finally arrived at Frangokastello where he decided to fight the Turks there, against the recommendation of the Sfakians who favoured a guerrilla campaign against the enemy. A large Turkish force of more than 8,000 men descended in early May at Frangokastello to attack Ntalianis.
The monument honours Ntalianis who died fighting outside the fort the vastly larger Turkish force on the 17th of May, 1828 during one of the fiercest battles fought in Crete during the 1821 uprising that saw 385 of Ntalianis men die as well as 800 Turks. The Sfakians revenged Ntalianis sacrifice by attacking the Turks on their return to Rethymno, killing more than 1,000 of the troops at a location a few kilometres to the east. The death of Ntalianis and his men is associated with a local tradition of the Drosoulites, an unexplained phenomenon that usually occurs on the anniversary of the Frangokastello battle where images of advancing troops appear at dawn to hover above this tragic location.
Monument of Stratis Deligiannakis
One of six brothers, sons of a hero of the 1770 Daskalogiannis uprising, Stratis Deligiannakis (1799-1874) was one of the heroic figures from the Deligiannakis family from Asfendou, many of who featured prominently in the Cretan struggle against the Turks, from the first uprising in 1770 to the final one in 1889. He was the only Sfakian Kapetanios who together with 60 of his men fought with Hatzi-Michales Ntalianis against the Turks from inside the fort of Frangokastello while the rest of the Sfakians chose to fight the Turks in their preferred approach as guerrilla fighters attacking only when they could entrap their enemy.
Following the heroic battle on the 17th of May 1828 around the fort where a large part of the Greek army of Ntalianis were killed, Deligiannakis and his Sfakians continued fighting from inside the fort, refusing to surrender. Deligiannakis was doing most of the shooting as he was a top marksman, his fighters reloading their rifles for him to shoot. This battle continued for seven more days until the Turks, fearful that the Sfakians would attack them soon, abandoned the siege and headed towards Rethymnon but on their way they were massacred by the waiting Sfakians.
Deligiannakis was one of the organizers of the next uprising of 1841 and he was given the highest rank of general, Heliarchos. After the end of this revolt he left Crete with a number of other Cretans and settled on the island of Milos. He was honored by King Otto of Greece with the highest rank of Colonel of the Royal Phalanx in recognition to his contribution to the Greek revolution of 1821. He died in Monemvasia, in mainland Greece, in January 1874, 24 years before Crete got its independence.
Monument to the six Patsos brothers
When the Venetians decided in 1371 to build a fort on the plains east of Chora Sfakion to protect the Venetian landowners from pirates and from the Sfakians living on the mountains to the north of the plains, the Sfakians naturally were not prepared to allow that. During the first year of construction the Venetians were unable to progress much with the building because Sfakians from the nearby village of Patsianos, under the leadership of the six brothers Patsos, would descent during the night and destroy whatever was built during the day. It was not until the Venetians brought a large number of troops to guard the construction site day and night and also managed to capture the six brothers, who were betrayed, that were able to progress with the building which was finalised in 1374.
This monument, erected by the community of Patsianos, honours the heroism of the six brothers who were hanged by the Venetians, one at each corner of the fort and the other two at the main gate of the fort.
Monument of Andreas Patsakis
The right plaque of the monument to the right of the two busts at Frangokastello.
This monument honours the last member of the Pastos family, a teacher who fought on the Albanian front with the rank of a lieutenant of the Greek Army. He died fighting there in the winter of 1940, defending his country against the foreign invader.
Just three hundred meters to the east of the fort of Frangokastello, on our left, outside the old chapel of Agios Nikitas, there is a monument dedicated to those from the village of Patsianos who fought during the wars of 1903 – 1914 in Macedonia and Epirus.
Monument to the people from the village of Patsianos who fought in Macedonia and Epirus during the years 1903 – 1914.
We will now head west towards Chora Sfakion, passing through the villages of Nomikana, Vouvas and Komitades where there are a number of monuments that we will visit.
Monument of Giorgos Perros
Giorgos Perros, or Perrakis, (1875-1913) from the village of Asfendou was one of the first to participate as a volunteer in the “Macedonian Struggle” of 1904-1908, entering the Turkish occupied Macedonia in early 1903 to determine the activities of the Bulgarian irregulars that were then active against the Greek population in that area. He soon returned back to Macedonia as part of a small group of Greek volunteers that commenced activities against the Bulgarians before the larger group of Greek volunteer forces joined in the struggle. He continued fighting in Macedonia until 1908 when the Young Turk revolt stopped temporarily the Bulgarian persecution of the Greek population in the area. He then participated in the First Balkan War (1912-1913), at the head of a force that fought to capture the island of Chios from the Turks. He was killed fighting on the 4th of December, 1912 at Pythi on the island of Chios.
Our next stop is at the village of Vouvas, at the small square of the village.
Monument for those killed fighting from the village of Asfendou
The village of Vouvas is the winter village of the people of Asfendou, so the community of Asfendou have erected their monument to those killed fighting for freedom at the small square of Vouvas.
The monument bears the following inscription:
Don’t ask to learn our names
Learn how to die for your country
Monument in honour of the heroes of the Deligiannakis family
An unusual and very impressive monument stands opposite the previous monument at the small square at the village of Vouvas, erected by a current member of the Deligiannakis family. An inscription reads:
Monument honouring the heroes of the Deligiannakis family
The founder of the family was Anastasios Zappas-Skordylis
Lieutenant of Kandanoleon at the uprising of 1570
(Note: The Uprising of Kandanoleon was against the Venetians, 142 years before the Turkish occupation)
The monument provides bronze reliefs and names and details about each of the fifteen heroes of the family who fought for freedom for more than two hundred years. The head of the family in the 17th century was Ioannis Zappetis Skordylis, or Deli-Giannis (The family surname comes from his nickname, Deli-Giannis, the Deli, meaning fearless fighter, and Giannis, his first name). His relief is in the middle, at the top of the monument.
The first to fight against the Turks was Vardis Zappetas (Zappetovardis Deligiannakis) from Anopolis who died fighting during the 1770 uprising together with his cousin, Daskalogiannis (top left on the monument). Two of his sons, a grandson and three great-grandsons appear also on the monument. The three last ones all fought in the “Macedonian struggle” and subsequent Balkan wars; one of them was killed during the First World War in 1818.
Another branch of the family appearing on the right side of the monument that had settled at Asfendou, was headed by Nikolaos Deligiannakis, also known as Bikos (Steel wedge, for his fighting prowess) who also fought at the 1770 uprising of Daskalogiannis and had six sons that all fought for freedom, including Stratis, the hero of Frangokastello, all appearing here on the monument. Excluding the 16th century founder, one sees here four generations of the one extended family having contributed their whole life for the freedom of their country.
We now leave Vouvas, pass through Vraskas and Komitades and just before the road joins the road coming down from Askifou we turn left along a dirt road towrds the church of Panagia Thymniani.
Monument of the 1821 uprising
This was where all the leaders and other participants to the uprising of 1821 gathered on Sunday, the 29th of May and following a solemn liturgy and the blessing of all the gathered people, their weapons and flags, declared the uprising and elected the ten Kapetanioi that were to lead the uprising, all Sfakians. This official declaration of the 1821 uprising in Crete is celebrated here on the last Sunday of May every year. The plaque outside the church records this historic event and the names of the ten leaders elected on that day.
We now head to Chora Sfakion where we meet our first monument on the final bend leading into the village, on our left.
Monument to those executed in the village by the Nazis
The monument that was erected amongst the pine trees, under the old Venetian fort, stands as a bitter reminder to all those entering the village of Chora Sfakion of the brutality of war and honours those that were executed there during the first week of September 1941.
In the preceding weeks a large Nazi force had scoured the nearby mountains and villages, trying to locate those that might have helped any soldiers that had failed to escape during the troop evacuation at the end of May and were hiding up in the mountains and the more remote villages. 26 men were arrested, half of them from Anopoli, some from Komitades, Agia Roumeli, Livaniana and other nearby areas, including 4 from Chora Sfakion. A brief court-martial was followed by the immediate execution at the location where today’s monument stands.
The names of those that were executed are inscribed on the monument and below the monument, in a glassed enclosure, are the skulls and bones of some of those executed, a grim reminder of the suffering that the area experienced during the Nazi occupation.
Following the same road, we reach the main square of the village of Chora Sfakion, where on our left we can see two monuments that were raised to celebrate two Sfakians from nearby areas that had contributed, in different ways, to the district of Sfakia.
Monument of Pavlos Vardinogiannis
A member of the Vardinogiannis family that has its roots at the Agios Ioannis village of Sfakia, Pavlos Vardinogiannis (1926-1984) was one of five brothers who established one of the financially most successful dynasties in Greece.
He studied Law at the University of Athens and soon after he became actively involved in politics to which he devoted his entire life. In 1956 he was elected Member of Parliament and in 1964 he became Minister in the government of G. Papandreou. When the dictatorship took over in 1967 he went into exile from where he worked towards the downfall of the dictatorship. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974 he returned to Greece and he was once again elected to Parliament in 1977.
During his whole political career he was a strong supporter of many cultural initiatives in Crete and an active participant in many activities relating to Sfakia and the Sfakians throughout Greece. He, together with his other brothers, contributed towards many of the needs of Sfakia and their forefathers’ birthplace, Agios Ioannis.
It was his idea and he was the driving force to establish a road connecting Agios Ioannis with the rest of Crete and it was the brothers Vardinogiannis who paid for the acquisition of the bridge that stands today over the Aradena Gorge. Unfortunately he did not survive to see the official opening of the bridge on 28 December 1986, having died two years earlier.
Monument of Parthenios Kelaidis
Archimandrite* Parthenios Kelaidis (1830-1905) was one of the driving forces behind the 1866-69 uprising against the Turks in Crete. He was one of the members of the Kelaidis family from the village of Mouri, high up on the Lefka Ori. While Archimadrite of the monastery Gonias Kissamou he was active in the diplomatic moves seeking the support of the Great Powers in removing the punitive taxes that had been imposed upon the long suffering population of the island by the new Turkish ruler, Ishmael Pasha. Having failed in the peaceful negotiation for the removal of the oppressive measures he became one of the organizers of the 1866 uprising. Following the bloody suppression of this uprising, Kelaidis was arrested by the Turks but soon he escaped to the island of Milos where many other Cretans had also fled. From there he went to Trieste (North East Italy, then part of the Austrian Empire) where he became the parish priest of the large Greek community that existed there at the time.
While in Trieste he was active in fund raising for the struggle in Crete and with his diplomatic activities seeking support for freeing Crete from the Turks and for its union with Greece. In Trieste he met the Italian widow of the Greek writer Spyros Zampelios, who became an admirer of his efforts for liberating Crete. She sought his assistance and advice in managing her substantial wealth and in recognition of his efforts, and on his recommendation she bequeathed her estate for the funding of school buildings and associated costs for the district of Sfakia. This bequest was added to the funds left for the same purpose by that other Sfakian benefactor, Giorgios Xenoudakis. (See details at Monuments of Impros)
Kelaidis returned to Greece where he lived for a while with his sisters on the island of Milos. He died in 1905, having seen Crete becoming free from Turkish occupation under the protection of the Great Powers for which he had worked hard but before its union with Greece eight years later in 1913.
*Archimandrite is an ecclesiastical title used in the Orthodox Church by a supervising abbot or the abbot of a large monastery.
Monument to the Allied forces that departed from Chora Sfakion after the fall of Crete
The small harbor that is behind this monument was the location of the largest evacuation of allied soldiers from Crete after the fall of the island to the Nazis in May 1941. From the evening of the 28th of May until the dawn of the 1st of June, during three nights, about 15,000 retreating soldiers were taken out on British and Australian warships. Still another 5,000 did not manage to escape despite the heroic fighting by the New Zealand rear-guard forces as Nazi troops soon reached the harbor.
On the anniversary of the battle of Crete, the four flags of Greece, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are raised over the monument and wreaths are laid to commemorate all those that fought against the invader and were evacuated from this location.
Before leaving Chora Sfakion for Anopoli, we will wander through the village, towards the Hotel Stavris, where there is a small chapel with a monument just opposite the hotel.
Monument of Dimitrios Kourmoulis
Dimitrios Kourmoulis was a Capetanios from the heroic family of Kourmoulis from the Messara district south of Mount Ida in central Crete. According to family tradition, he and some of his men fought against the Turks in the later part of the 1821 rebellion at Anopoli where he was killed. His body was brought down to Chora Sfakion where he was buried at the then church of Agios Spiridon. This church disappeared many years ago and a new church was built in 1993 at the location where it was believed that the old one stood. In 2001 the Kourmoulis family erected a monument outside the new church to honour their ancestor.
We would now take the road to Anopoli, the once capital city of the district, and the birthplace of one of the most heroic figures of Sfakian history.
Monument of Daskalogiannis
Giannis Vlachos, or better known to all as Daskalogiannis, Teacher Giannis, was born in Anopoli in the early 1700s from a family that was given the nickname Vlachos, according to local tradition, having returned a couple of generations back to Sfakia from Vlachia (or Wallachia) where they had escaped when the Turks took over western Crete, probably around 1648. He was addressed as Teacher, in accordance to local custom, as he was one of the few well educated people in the area. He was a wealthy ship owner who operated four large ships that took him regularly away from the Turkish occupied Crete where he became an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian grand vision of liberating all Orthodox Christians from Muslim oppression.
Believing in assurances given to him that there was going to be Russian support for an uprising in Crete he convinced his fellow Sfakians and on the 25th of March 1770 they declared their rebellion against the Turks. On the 4th of April 1770 Daskalogiannis and his 2,000 Sfakian rebels gathered at the Krapi plateau (see comment at first monument) where after celebrating Easter at the church of Agios Ioannis commenced their fateful attack against the Turks expecting the Russians to join them soon, but the Russians never came. A large Turkish force of more than 20,000 men soon defeated the rebels and destroyed Sfakia. Daskalogiannis, bitter and remorseful about the outcome of the uprising convinced his fellow Sfakians to let him surrender to the Turks so that the continuing destruction of the district would stop. The Turks executed him on the 17th of June 1771, in the square at the eastern gate of Heraklion, by skinning him alive. Sfakia lay devastated and completely destroyed for a number of years, its brave fighters having fled to caves and peaks in the high mountains of Crete, but they were soon to recover and lead the next big rebellion fifty years later.
This first uprising against the Turks and the Daskalogiannis sacrifice is commemorated annually on the first Sunday after the 17th of June at Anopoli. The monument to Daskalogianni was raised in the main square of Anopoli in 1971. The two marble box structures on either side of the monument contain some of the remains of the 75 Sfakians that were taken by the Turks to Heralkion and imprisoned but escaped three years later and went into hiding in the mountains south of Heraklion where they perished. Their remains were brought back to Sfakia in 1985, including that of Protopapas of Anopolis, (see further details at his monument further down) and were laid to rest next to the statue of Daskalogiannis.
Monument of Ioannis Karavitis
Renowned military leader from Anopoli (1883-1949) who was one of the driving forces behind the great achievements of the Cretan volunteer forces during the “Macedonian Struggle” of 1904-1908. He also fought bravely during the First Balkan War (1912-1913) against the Turks in northern Greece. He joined again with many other Sfakians in 1914 in northern Epirus to fight against Albanian forces during a period when Greece was trying to annex an area largely occupied by a Greek speaking Orthodox population. His fearless dedication to the military struggle in northern Greece has been praised by many and his bust stands in the central square of Florina, in Northern Greece, as well as in Anopoli.
The two next monuments stand in the yard of the church of Agios Georgios at the same square in Anopoli.
Monument of Bishop of Sfakia Evmenios Xiroudakis (monument on the left)
Born in Constantinople from parents from Anopoli, Evmenios (1850-1920) at the early age of 30 became professor of theology at the Orthodox Theological School of Chalki in Constantinople. He left Constantinople for Crete in 1886 where he was elected Bishop of Lampis and Sfakia where he stayed until 1898, a period that witnessed great improvements in the social and educational fields in the district. He was then elected as Metropolitan of Crete, a post that he held until 1916. Early during his reign as Metropolitan, in 1900, while Crete was enjoying the early years of autonomy and as a result of his work, the church of Crete was established by the new government as autonomous, administered by its provincial synod and reporting to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Monument of the Protopapas of Anopolis (monument on the right)
Uncle of Daskalogiannis, his full name is not known, as he is quoted in the uprising events as Protopapas, or First priest, a title indicating the highest rank of priesthood in the district of Sfakia at times when there was no Bishop for the bishopric of Lampis and Sfakia. Historians have him related to the Sfakian family of Anastasios Zappas-Skordylis, the founder of the Deligiannakis family (see earlier monument of this family). He is known for his role during the 1770 uprising where he frequently questioned Daskalogiannis on his belief that the Russians would come and assist the Cretans in their uprising against the Turks. But once the decision was taken to rebel against the Turks, he became a firm supported of the uprising. After the collapse of the uprising he surrendered to the Turks together with Daskalogiannis and another 75 Sfakians to save the district from total destruction.
He escaped after three years imprisonment in Heraklion together with other Sfakians and sought shelter in a cave near the Rouvas gorge on Mount Ida but due to the maltreatment and neglect that they had suffered in prison, he and some of the other escapees died there. Two hundred years later, in 1985, the remains of Protopapas and the other Sfakians that had died in the cave at Rouvas were brought back home to Anopoli.
The monument to Protopapas was erected to commemorate his contribution to the 1770 uprising and his personal sacrifice to save Sfakia from further destruction.
Before leaving Anopoli for the village just below it, Loutro, we will visit two small monuments in a very isolated location, in the Kavis (Illigas) Gorge. One is just below the abandoned village of Mouri, where the old 14th century church of Timios Stavros stands.
Monument to the three Cretans who rebelled against the Venetians in 1365
|Located outside a cave opposite the church of Timios Stavros near Mouri|
Crete was under Venetian rule for more than 400 years and during that period Cretans rebelled against their new rulers for no less than 27 times. One of the bloodiest uprisings was that of the brothers Kalergis in 1365 that finished around Anopoli and Aradena three years later when the Venetians defeated the few remaining rebels, razed all buildings to the ground, put large parts of the countryside to the torch and prohibited all habitation and grazing on the Anopolis plateau for 100 years.
Three of the leaders of the uprising, according the local tradition, were arrested at the cave opposite the church of Timios Stavros where they had sought refuge because of its difficult location and its supply of water. Historians tell us that the three were brought to Chania where, together with their whole families, they were executed. Crete would not experience another uprising against the Venetians for close to 100 years after this brutal event.
The bronze plaque outside the cave commemorates their arrest at this location on the 12th of April, 1367.
Further south in the same gorge, approximately half way between Timios Stavros and the sea, there is another cave with a marble plaque commemorating another Cretan fighter who died fighting the invaders.
Monument to Stamatis Basias
|Pictures by Simon Stutz|
Stamatis Basias was a renowned Kapetanios from Panochori of the Selino district who came with his group of fighters to the assistance of Daskaloyannis during the 1770 uprising against the Turks. During the battles that were fought around Anopoli Mpasias was gravely wounded and his fighters took him and hid him in this cave in the Kavis Gorge where he eventually died.
After returning to Anopoli we now head down the path to Loutro to inspect a plaque affixed at the local primary school, another simple monument in Sfakia.
Monument of the Kangellaria of Sfakia
The plaque commemorates the formation at that location of a new Government in Crete, named the Kangellaria (from the 14th century Chancellerie) of Sfakia, on the 15th of April, 1821 and the decision of the new Government to declare a general uprising in Crete. The plaque also provides the names of those that were elected to that government. This declaration of the uprising was formalised at the general meeting at the church of Panagia Thymniani, at Komitades, on Sunday, the 29th of May (see also previous monument at Komitades).
Recently there was another monument erected in Sfakia, at the far west of the municipality, at the mouth of the Tripiti gorge. This is a fairly isolated location that can be reached either by sea or on foot from Sougia. Reaching it on foot from the east is a fairly long and difficult walk, not recommended for the inexperienced.
Monument to the last evacuated Allied soldiers in 1943
The monument was unveiled on the 70th anniversary of the evacuation of 51 Allied soldiers from this location that took place on the night of 7 May 1943. There were 51 in the group and they included Australian, New Zealand, British and Cypriot servicemen. They were picked up by a Royal Navy motor launch, ML355. They had been hiding in widely dispersed places throughout western Crete since June 1941. The memorial, located just inside the gorge besides the church of Agios Nikolaos, commemorates this event and expresses gratitude to the people of western Crete for their role in caring for the soldiers until they were rescued and able to return to their own countries.
Our tour of the historical monuments of Sfakia ends here. Hopefully I have not missed any monuments but if any reader has details of any other monuments that he or she has come across, I would appreciate if relevant details were to be forwarded to me and I will investigate and if appropriate I will update this presentation accordingly.
Details and other comments can be forwarded to me at George@Dalidakis.com
Most of the information provided above has been sourced from books by the historian of Sfakia, Paris Kelaidis, as well as some other books on the history of Crete and other local information sources.
Updated as at March 2014.
*George K. Dalidakis is a descendant of the Gialedakis family of Askifou and a regular visitor to Sfakia.