Notable Cretans

Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)

He was born in Heraklion in 1541. He was taught hagiography in a Venetian workshop and was influenced by the 16th century Cretan hagiography school and the Byzantine art. He spent much of his life in Toledo, Spain, where he died in 1614.

El Greco, as he was nicknamed in Spain, also practiced sculpture and architecture, although there are not many samples of his work, except for the sculptural iconostasis of Santo Domingo el Antiguo (1577), the chapel of San Jose in Toledo (1597). - 1599) and the church of the Hospital de la Caridad in Illescas (1603 - 1605).

The evolution of Theotokopoulos's painting can be traced to the four cities where he lived: Heraklion, Venice, Rome and Toledo. Among his works the most famous are, La curación del ciego, La Trinidad, the Asunción de la Virgen and many more.

Vitsentzos Kornaros

He was born in Sitia in 1553 and died in Chandakas (present-day Heraklion) in 1613 or 1614. Kornaros is credited with the famous work of Cretan literature Erotokritos. It extends to 10,000 fifteen-syllable verses, of which only one copy survives, dating to 1710.

It is believed that the poet was inspired by the French medieval work Paris et Vienne which he managed to turn into a real masterpiece. Kornaros is also credited with the poetic drama Sacrifice of Abraham, which consists of 1,154 fifteen-syllable verses and was first published in 1635.

Kornaros had the most decisive influence on the Cretan poetic speech. A living tradition that survives even today in Crete with the form of a peculiar folk poetry in the form of fifteen-syllable verses. They are the well-known mantinades.

Eleftherios Venizelos

He was born in Chania in 1864. He studyied law and completied his doctorate in Athens. From an early age he was involved in politics and was elected a member of the Cretan Assembly.

After his intervention as a referee in the negotiations between the Rebels, the Crown and the Parties, in 1910 was named President of the Greek Assembly of the Cretans and Prime Minister of the Cretan State. In the following months, he was appointed leader of the new Liberal Party, won the elections of the Revisionary Parliament (December 1910) and won the national elections by a landslide (March 1912).

In 1916, in Chania, along with Koundouriotis and Daglis, he formed the National Triandria, which formed an interim government of National Defence and joined the Entente. A turbulent period followed, where Venizelos's party alternated in power until the 1933 elections, when he was finally defeated. Venizelos died in March 1936 in Paris.

Nikos Kazantzakis

One of the most emblematic persons of modern Greek literature. He was born in 1883 in Heraklion. He studied law in Athens and philosophy in Paris. His trip to Russia in 1919, as Director General of the Ministry of Health, was the prelude to his fascinating odyssey: He traveled and lived in Vienna, Berlin, Italy, Crete, Russia, Palestine, Cyprus, Spain, Egypt, Mount Sinai, Czechoslovakia and Nice. He died in Freiburg, Germany in 1957.

He started writing in 1906, with the work Serpent and Lily. He reached his climax with the famous novels Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas, Christ Recrucified, Captain Michalis, The Last Temptation of Christ and Report to Greco.

His literary work was translated into many languages ​​and became famous worldwide. The film adaptation of his novels such as Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas and The Last Temptation helped his work gain worldwide acclaim.

Mikis Theodorakis

Mikis (Michael) Theodorakis was born in Chios in 1925 and died in Athens in 2021. He was of Cretan and Asia Minor origin. He is considered one of the most important composers and most influential Greeks of the second half of the 20th century. He served as a minister in the early 90s and was elected four times member of the Greek parliament. He was honoured with the Lenin Peace Prize in 1983 and in 2000 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He had composed the most recognisable Greek tune, Syrtaki for the film Zorba the Greek. He also composed classical music works and has written music for well-known films.
His most important work is considered to be the melodic poetry, using as lyrics poems by famous poets, such as Lenin Peace Prize winners Giannis Ritsos and Costas Varnalis, as well as Nobel Prize winners Georgios Seferis, Pablo Neruda and Odysseas Elytis.

Manos Chatzidakis

He was born in 1925 in Xanthi. His father, Georgios Chatzidakis a lawyer, came from Myrthios, Rethymno, but moved to Thrace, where the tobacco trade was flourishing at the time. After the separation of his parents, Hatzidakis moved permanently to Athens in 1932 with his mother.

Chatzidakis was one of the most important Greek composers, poets, songwriters, conductors and pianists. He is considered the first to connect with his work, art music with folk music tradition. Most of his work is now recognised as classic.

In 1960 he won the Academy Award for Best Original Song from the film Never on Sunday.








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