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Agia Triada (archaeological site) - Crete

Hagia Triada

The ancient Minoan city of Agia Triada stood in the south, in the central part of the Greek island of Crete. Today, Agia Triada is one of the most important archaeological sites in Crete, where the remains of a royal villa or a beautifully decorated funerary sarcophagus have been discovered.

History of the Minoan town of Agia Triada

Agia Triada (sometimes also known as Hagia Triada or Ayia Triada) is a large Minoan site in the south of Crete. The archaeological area of Agia Triada is located at the western end of the Messarian Plain, about 4 km west of the important archaeological site of Festos, near the village of Tymbaki. In addition to the unique historical finds, it boasts spectacular views of the Messara plain and the high mountains in the background.

The name of the original ancient settlement is unknown. Archaeologists who began to uncover the site in the early 20th century named it so after the nearby 14th century Byzantine church of Agia Triada (translated as "Holy Trinity"), which stands on a hill to the southwest.

Excavations suggest that the area was already inhabited around the 3rd millennium BC (early Minoan period), but the palace itself was built later, around 1600 BC. While the nearby Minoan city of Phaestos grew and flourished, only a small building stood in Agia Triada. A cemetery (necropolis) with two large domed tombs was also established here. It was not until later, around 1600 BC, that a royal villa was built here and Agia Triada experienced a period of prosperity.

However, the city disappeared around 1450 BC, like many other Minoan complexes. During the Mycenaean period, a new palace was built on the ruins of the old palace (sometime between the 14th and 11th centuries BC), followed by a small sanctuary dedicated to the god Zeus during the Hellenistic period (4th to 1st centuries BC).

Archaeologists have also made the interesting discovery that, while Festos was a more artefact-rich and socially vibrant city before the massive earthquake of c. 1650 BC, Agia Triada rather flourished after the earthquake. The close relationship between Agia Triada and Festos is evidenced by the stone road that formerly linked the two towns.

It has long been believed that the villa of Agia Triada served as a summer holiday residence for the rulers of the nearby palace of Faistos. However, recent excavations have begun to challenge this, especially when magnificent wall frescoes and decorations, much more beautiful and elaborate than those at the Palace of Festos, have been discovered here. More and more experts are inclined to the version that the smaller palace of Agia Triada was the actual home and residence of the ruler, while the larger palace of Faistos was used for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.

Archaeological site of Agia Triada

Due to the geographical proximity of the ancient cities of Agia Triada and Phaestos, their archaeological excavations took place more or less simultaneously. The first excavations were started by Italian archaeologists Frederico Halbherr and Luigi Pernier in 1900. Intensive excavations continued until 1914, and at the end of the 20th century the Italian School of Archaeology in Athens resumed excavation work.

The most important discovery is the remains of the Minoan royal villa, which consists of two wings and, although smaller than the palaces of Knossos or Phaestos, shows all the features typical of these ancient buildings (courtyards, terraces, paved paths, columns, staircases, royal rooms, sanctuaries and rooms for the daily life of the subjects).

During the excavations, several clay tablets with linear letter A, beautiful wall frescoes or decorated vases were found. In addition, the remains of a drainage system, a roofed marketplace (unique in its time) and a beautiful carved sarcophagus from 1400 BC (decorated with paintings and scenes from Cretan life, including a funerary situale; a Mycenaean prince was buried in it) were also discovered in the town cemetery. These unique exhibits are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

The nice thing for many visitors is that it is not a major tourist attraction as in the case of the Minoan palace of Knossos, where crowds of visitors stream in. Agia Triada is a much smaller and quieter archaeological site, which is helped by the fact that it lies at a greater distance from the most popular tourist resorts such as Hersonissos and Malia.

Agia Triada Palace has perhaps the most beautiful view of all the Minoan palaces, allowing you to admire the fertile Messara plain and the high mountain massif of Psiloritis in the background.

Other locations of "Agia Triada" on the island of Crete

On the island of Crete we can find several places called "Agia Triada". In addition to the archaeological area of Agia Triada, there are at least two others - the monastery of Agia Triada (Chania region) and the village of Agia Triada (Lassithi region).

The monastery of Agia Triada is located on the Akrotiri peninsula, about 16 km east of the city of Chania. The monastery was built in the 17th century by two Venetian monks, brothers Jeremias and Lavrente Jagarolon. They worked on the construction of the monastery from 1612 until 1645, when the monastery was unfortunately conquered by the Turks. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that the monastery was completed and rebuilt in its present form. In the 19th century it housed an important theological school, and today there is a library and a small museum with icons inside the monastery.

The tiny mountain village of Agia Triada is located in the southeastern part of Crete, near the village of Ziros. The village is situated on a hillside, is very quiet and inhabited mainly by old people. The main building of the village is the pink church of Agia Triada.

More touristic destinations of Crete

Most favourite sights of Crete: Agia Triada (archaeological site), Archaeological Museum Heraklion, Phaistos (archaeological site), Gortyn (archaeological site), Arkadi Monastery, Knossos (archaeological site), Church of Four Martyrs, Fortezza Fortress (Rethymno), Frangokastello Fortress, Spinalonga Fortress, Windmills on Lasithi Plateau

Resorts, beaches, sights or trips - clearly listed on the map of Crete.

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