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The cretan culture and history

Crete is a very specific Greek island. In ancient times, the island was considered the center of the world. She is a mixture of east and west. Each new influence was first assimilated, then adapted to the needs of the island. The succession of foreign dominations and revolts that have marked its history have created a unique, incomparable culture.

Crete strongly influenced the Mycenaean civilization . The Cretan boats went as far as Egypt, Anatolia, Syria where they sold the products of their crafts and from which they brought back ivory objects, gemstones or foodstuffs.


Despite repeated occupations, Crete has kept its specificities and made it its strengths. For 4000 years, it has managed to preserve its customs and its attachment to traditional values. And it will last!

The family, hub of the society

Even more  than in the rest of Greece, the family is in Crete the hub of the society. Much more than from the gouvernment, it is from the family that one expects solidarities and elementary rules that ensure safety for the elders and protection for the youngest. A very great respect for the ancients continues in the spirit of the Cretan youth. Attached to their traditions and their education, the young Cretans have a highly developed admiration and dedication for their elders. A single word, a single glance is enough to put order in a family, a village, a gathering. This is how Cretan culture is preserved and protected.

During 2000 years, the Cretans successively defied the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Venetian and Turkish dominions. Their identity has thus been strengthened and is today stronger than ever. They are nonetheless open to the outside world : the "Philotimo" (sense of welcome). It gives irresistibly envy to visitors to return each year .... See ... Staying there !


"Freedom or death" is the main word of the Cretan people who, regardless of the occupier, refuses submission. It was not until 1913 that Crete requested its attachment to Greece, in order to benefit from its military protection.

In Crete, one and only watchword : FREEDOM
a deep and visceral passion for independence

The orthodox religion 

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The Orthodox religion occupies a large part of the Cretan culture.


It is a benevolent religion, which brings together. Cretans are very believers and very active.


Every Sunday, we meet at the church and we get news from the villagers that we have not seen during the week. The Orthodox religion has allowed families to remain united, close, supportive. The popes are allowed to get married, and to have children. They can thus understand the family worries of their parishioners. They all work. It is not uncommon to meet a pope in a cassock repairing a car or to put an air conditioning ... Each wedding gathers a minimum of 500 people ... The whole village takes part in the party, during 3 days at less.


The Orthodox religion is a Christian religion, separated from the Catholic religion about a thousand years ago. The Orthodox are estimated at nearly 200 million in the world, especially in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia and especially in the former USSR where they represent 50%. The term "orthodox" comes from the Greek ortos (orthos) which means right, right and doxa (doxa) which means belief, opinion: just belief.


The basis of the orthodox faith is the fundamental communion with God, present at every moment of life. Orthodoxy invites man not only to reflect on his own fate, but also to transform his daily experience to improve his inner nature. The Orthodox rite puts the faithful in a condition of great receptivity in a mystical atmosphere, associating repetitive prayers, candlesticks of candlelight and symbolic icons. It is an incarnated rite, the body being involved. Easter is the most important manifestation for the Orthodox. Orthodox priests can get married. Celibacy is not a necessary condition for the ordination of a priest, on the contrary. The priest must choose his wife before ordination. Finally, the Orthodox make the sign of the cross from the top, down, and passing right before going left.


Many Monasteries dotted on the island of Crete, including: Arkadi Monastery, Preveli Monastery, Toplou Monastery, Agia Triada Monastery are witnesses to the importance of religion for the Cretan people.

Hygoumen of the Arkadi Monastery

The cretan costume 

The Cretan costume is a combination of weaving and embroidery art :

- the contemporary male costume appeared in the 16th century only. Until the 15th century, the Cretans wore costumes in the "Venetian" fashion. They were completed by the "Sariki" (the black silk knit turban) and the "Stivania" (the boots). Abundant purple and black embroidery adorn the vest. The silver knife was an integral part of this costume. The pants were called "Vraka" and the belt around the waist was 8 meters long!

- the female costume is composed of two "types" of clothing: the festive costume (that of Sfakia, a small village in the south west of the island) and that of Anogia, located in the heart of the Cretan mountains. The skirt of Sfakia is worn above the shirt, with several folds. It is in silk, and of purple color, adorned with gold cords. The costume of Anogia is composed of "sarza", an embroidered vest, a scarf, an apron and a belt.

The cretan music

The main instruments that make up Cretan music are LYRA and LAOUTO. Although very influenced by the oriental music, the Cretan music is distinguished by its "mantinades" (poem sung 15 syllables) and its repetitive rhythms, which oblige the dancers to possess an excellent physical condition.

His workshop is located in the heart of the Venetian city of Rethymno. The instruments created by Manolis Stagakis are entirely handmade. The wood is very carefully chosen to be perfect and impeccable.

The back part of the Lyra (skafos) is made of walnut, most of which is at least 10 years old.

The front part (kapaki) is the most important part of the organ because it is responsible for the sound quality and sound reproduction fidelity, which is why it is made of Katrani. It is a kind of wood of at least 300 years and today it is found exclusively in the houses of the old town of Rethymno where it was used as a skate or support.

Even glue and varnish are handmade, which is very important. The glue is made of fish squama and it is called "psarokolla", while the polish is made of a material called "Gomalaka". Both are produced in the Manolis workshop, in order to obtain the best sound quality

It should be noted that the wood used in the back part (skafos) of the Lyra does not affect the quality of the organ and that the choice between different woods is only a matter of taste and aesthetics.

The manufacture of a Lyra requires about a week (7-8 days) of work. This is a custom made; the object is configured to meet the requirements (tone and tone) of each artist.

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