After the capture of Constantinople, Crete became one of the most important artistic centres under Venetian control. Around 1600 AD, in the city of Herakleion alone, there were 20,000 inhabitants, of whom 200 were native painters, whose reputation spread far beyond the city limits and the island’s shores. They and their work adorned the great monastic centres – not only in the rest of Greece, but also throughout the Orthodox East.
It was in these circumstances that the ‘Cretan School’ of Painting gradually evolved.
Its important works are found today in museums, monasteries and in private and public collections. All told, this phenomenon of the Cretan School forms a very important and special chapter in the History of Art.
The greatest exponents of the School are: Angelos (17th), Michaïl Damaskenos (16th), Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco; 16th), Theophanes the Cretan (16th), Georgos Klontzas (17th) and Ioannis Kornaros (18th).
A representative snapshot of the output of the Cretan School can be gained from the collection held in the church of Aghia Katerina of Sinai (in the Aghios Minas square in Herakleion). The most important pieces are the six icons of Damaskenos, brought to Herakleion in the 19th century from the Monastery of Vrondisi (close to Zaros).
Regrettably, at the time of writing, the collection is not open to viewing: the church Aghia Katerina of Sinai is open to the public once a year, on the saint’s nameday (25th November).