The Sabbionara bastion on the eastern side of Chania’s Old Town was built by the Venetians in 1591. Its name means “of the sands,” for it was built entirely on underwater sand and rocks. Be that as it may, the bastion never did what it was intended to do – protect the city from the Turks. The Turks destroyed it just a half-century later in 1645 before they finally wrested control of Crete from the Venetians 25 years after that. The Turks rebuilt the bastion and kept the name Koum Kapi, “of the sands” (apparently derived from the Turkish kum kapisi), for the area of the city that stretches east beyond the Sabbionara. Some sources call the Sabbionara the Mocenigo bastion in honor of Zuane Mocenigo, the governor general of Crete, who ordered it to be built. (Note that some sources spell his name incorrectly with an extra letter “n” – Moncenigo.) The Mocenigo family was one of the most prominent Venetian families on Crete, known in that era as Candia. (Chania was known as Canea during this period.) Giovanni Mocenigo, the first of the family to arrive in Candia in 1364, served in the army that was called upon to quell the rebellious nature of the local population. Over the next 300 years at least nine members of the Mocenigo family would play prominent roles in the island’s history. The last, also a Giovanni, took part in the final battles of 1668 that saw Candia (Crete) handed over to the Turks. The Sabbionara has had different looks over the years. For some time it was built up with a building that I believe was either a military hospital or military barracks (I’ve just spent several hours researching this to no avail). For awhile there was nothing on top of it, just a flat surface. These days there are trees that make it a nice park space for dog-walkers and lovers. [Photos restored Dec. 10, 2019]
All text and photos © 2019 John Freedman. If you wish to reproduce, repost or use any of the text or any photo, please ask for permission.