Saint Titus church is one of the most important monuments in Heraklion. In 961, Nicephorus Phocas drove the Arabs from Crete, bringing the island back under the wing of the powerful Byzantine Empire. This is when the first Orthodox church of St Titus must have been built, to rekindle the Christian faith and tradition in Crete, which had declined due to the corsair conquest of the island.
Saint Titus was a disciple of the Apostle Paul and the first Bishop of Crete. The first church dedicated to him was that in the old capital Gortyn, which also housed the metropolitan see of the island until its destruction by earthquake and the Arab transfer of the capital from Gortyn to Chandax (Heraklion) in 828 AD.
The skull of St Titus, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mesopanditissa and other sacred relics from Gortyn were moved to the new church.
At the fall of Heraklion to the Turks all relics were removed to Venice, where they still remain today. The single exception is the skull of St Titus, which was returned to Heraklion in 1966 and is now kept in a silver reliquary in the church.
During the period of Turkish rule, the church of Saint Titus was ceded to Vizier Fazil Ahmet Kiopruli, who converted it into a mosque known as the Vezir Mosque.
The great earthquake of 1856 totally destroyed the church. It was rebuilt in its present form as an Ottoman mosque by architect Athanasios Moussis, who also designed the Orthodox cathedral of Saint Minas and the barracks in Eleftherias Square.
The minaret of Saint Titus was demolished in the 1920s, when the last Muslims left Heraklion with the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Today Saint Titus is an Orthodox church dedicated to St Titus the Apostle, following modifications carried out by the Church of Crete in 1925.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.