Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Western Art in Crete

First period


During the first period, testimonies of literary and archival sources were studied as well as works of art: illustrated manuscripts, icons, works of sculpture and architecture. Specifically:

Ι. A database with bibliography on Venetian Crete was established. The data base was incorporated into the project Digital Crete.

ΙΙ. Photographic facsimiles of manuscripts produced in Crete during the period in question, which had illustrations or contained works relating to Crete, were collected in analogue or digital form. 

ΙΙΙ. A database was established which catalogued evidence from the archives and published sources of the presence of Western artists in Crete and correspondingly the existence of Western artworks in churches and homes in Crete as well as imported household objects.

ΙV. Collaborative working relationships were established with the Ephorates of Antiquities in Crete and the systematic recording and studying of stone carving and sculpture from the period of Venetian rule in Crete was initiated. Sculpture provided an appropriate subject for research in terms of meeting the program’s objectives, offering a large body of material that had not previously been systematically examined. Moreover, these works had generally been produced on the island. For the most part they were associated with architecture, which was inspired by Venetian models or reproduced imported designs. Thus the sculpture provided a way of looking more closely at the architecture too. This work produced the following outcomes: 

  • Two databases were set up: i) for sculpture from the museums and other collections and ii) for sculpture in its original location or in secondary use, built into later buildings. This material is freely available and is used by scholars and visitors at the Institute of Mediterranean Studies.  Part of it is accessible on the internet.
  • In 2002, in collaboration with the 13th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities in Crete, a symposium was held at the IMS on the topic of “Sculpture in the Latin East, 13th–17th centuries”
  • The collective publication titled Sculpture and Stone Carving in the Levant, ed. Olga Gratziou, Herakleion: Crete University Press 2007 was published.

V. Aspects of architecture were studied: e.g. construction techniques, special purpose buildings, the meaning for stylistic choices. 

In more general terms, the shift of the research towards the material remains from the Venetian period preserved on the island has provided the opportunity to discuss many issues related to the artistic and cultural implications of Venetian rule in Crete.  This research field was well adapted to the training of a new generation of scholars.  The Program welcomed undergraduate students for their practical training and collaborated with postgraduate students of the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Crete.  In the context of the Program’s research objectives and with the support of its infrastructure: 

Three master dissertations were produced in the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Crete 

    • Marianna Katifori, Χαρτογραφική Μελέτη του Μεραμπέλλου στα χρόνια της Βενετοκρατίας. Τα μοναστήρια στη χρήση και οργάνωση του χώρου. Εφαρμογή στα Γεωγραφικά Συστήματα Πληροφοριών, [A Cartographic Study of Merabello in the Venetian Period, Recapturing the Spatial Dynamics of the Monasteries using GIS], Rethymno 2005
    • Nikos Tsivikis, Ο ναός της Αγίας Άννας στην Ελεύθερνα Μυλοποτάμου, [The church of Saint Anne at Eleutherna, Mylopotamos], Rethymno 2008. 
    • Evangelos Charitopoulos, Η ενδοχώρα νότια του Ρεθύμνου κατά τον Ύστερο Μεσαίωνα: μελέτη και αξιολόγηση των αρχαιολογικών δεδομένων με εφαρμογή γεωγραφικών συστημάτων πληροφοριών (GIS) [The hinterland south of Rethymno in the Late Medieval Period. Study and Evaluation of Archaeological Data using GIS] Rethymno 2009.

Academic Supervisor
Olga Gratziou (Emeritus Professor of the University of Crete and Honorary Member of the Institute of Mediterranean Studies/ FORTH)

Research team

The following have participated in the research team as postgraduate students, doctoral candidates and young researchers:

Petroula Varthalitou
Maria Vakondiou
Sofia Katopi
Matteo Magnani
Olga Magoula
Konstantinos Roussos
Fani Skyvalida
Nikos Tsivikis
Giannis Fantakis

Project Team

Olga Gratziou

IMS Honorary Fellow, Professor Emerita
Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete
Curriculum vitae

Maria Vakondiou

Postdoctoral researcher
Curriculum vitae

Sofia Katopi

Postdoctoral researcher
Curriculum vitae

Nikos Tsivikis

Postdoctoral researcher
Curriculum vitae