The Historical Museum of Crete was founded in 1953 and is housed in a neoclassical building of exceptional architectural merit. It tells the story of seventeen centuries of local history and culture, from the early Christian centuries up to modern times. Byzantine art and culture, the periods of Venetian and Ottoman rule, the age of revolutions on the course to union with Greece, World War II, the Battle of Crete and the resistance, as well as Cretan rural folk culture, are all highlighted via selected exhibits combined with a wealth of visual material and multimedia. The finest exhibits are two El Greco paintings, The Baptism of Christ (1569) and View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine (1570), the only works by the artist now on Crete. The Nikos Kazantzakis is in a special collection including personal effects and manuscripts by the Cretan writer. Visits begin at a separate section featuring a large mock-up of mid-17th century Chandax (Heraklion).
The neoclassical listed building that forms the oldest wing of the Historical Museum of Crete was originally the mansion of Andreas Lysimachos Kalokerinos, constructed in 1903 to plans by architect Konstantinos Tsantirakis. The murals with scenes from the Iliad and Odyssey are by Antonios Stefanopoulos, “decorator of the Quellenec House in Athens”.
The site had previously been occupied by the Kalokerinos family home, built in 1870 by architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou, which was burnt down during the events of 25th August 1898. The victims included Lysimachos A. Kalokerinos and other family members.
In the 1970s the Museum was expanded via a new wing funded by the A. & M. Kalokerinos Foundation, in an undertaking that combined modern and neoclassical architecture. The wing was supplemented in the early 1990s with the addition of a further floor, and completed in May 2004 when the Temporary Exhibition Rooms and Yannis Pertselakis Amphitheatre were set up, with funding from the A. &. M. Kalokerinos Foundation and the Crete Regional Operational Programme.
Indoor exhibition space in the Museum currently stands at 1500m2, divided into 25 areas that cover seventeen centuries of history. The Museum also has a shop and a café.