Everything About the Former Mosques in Rethymnon

Mosques in Rethymnon

Imagine walking through the charming streets of Rethymnon, Crete, when you notice peculiar mosques calling for attention. Before long, you learn that the so-called former mosques in Rethymno whisper tales of a history that will enchant you. Sounds interesting? Here’s all you need to know about the marvelous secrets of the former mosques in Rethymnon and the stories they tell.

Posts include affiliate links to products or services. I might earn a commission if you make a purchase.

Unlocking the Secrets of Rethymnon’s Past: Dive into the Enchanting World of Former Mosques

Mosques in Rethymnon

>> Join our Facebook Group!

Be sure to book ahead of time to ensure availability!

🛎️ Find the best hotels in Crete here

📍 Top tours I recommend on the island:
Boat cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa
Ticket to Knossos Archaeological Site

🚘 The best way to get around Crete is by car. Check rental car rates for Crete here.

📲 Book a consultation call if you need help planning your trip to Crete!

Get your copy now and unlock Rethymnon’s secrets like a local!

The History and Significance of Former Mosques in Rethymnon

Mosques in Rethymnon
Neratze Mosque, Rethymnon.

If you look at a map of Crete, you’ll quickly notice that Rethymnon is strategically located between Europe and the Middle East. As a result, various civilizations have shaped the city’s complex history over the centuries.

One of them, the Ottoman Empire, built religious centers that influenced the townspeople for centuries. 

The former mosques of Rethymno served as spiritual hubs, gathering places, and symbols of power. They were not only places of worship but also architectural masterpieces that showcased the skill and creativity of their builders.

The Transformation of Former Mosques into Churches

Mosques in Rethymnon

Many former mosques in Rethymnon underwent significant transformation in the wake of political and religious changes over the centuries. Each shift was related to who was in charge.

The Arab and Muslim overlords gave way to Italian and Christian rulers, who naturally wanted more churches and fewer mosques. So, with the arrival of Venetian rule in the 17th century, most mosques were converted into churches.

But not everything changed: Today, you can still notice the fusion of Islamic and Christian architectural elements on their walls.

Do you want to see for yourself? Let’s examine some of the former mosques in Rethymno.

Former mosques in Rethymnon:

  1. Neratze Mosque
  2. Valide Sultana Mosque
  3. Kucuk Haci Ibrahim Aga Mosque
  4. Kara Musa Pasha Mosque
  5. Sultan Ibrahim Han Mosque
  6. Veli Pasha Mosque
  7. Ibrahim Mosque

Finally, the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, in the center of the old town, was also a mosque during the Ottoman rule known as the Angebut Ahmed Pasha Mosque.

Neratze Mosque: From Augustine Monastery to Municipal Odeon

Mosques in Rethymnon

Among the former mosques in Rethymnon, Neratze Mosque holds a unique place. The story of Neratze Mosque begins with its construction as the Augustine Monastery by the Venetians.

Founded in the late 16th century, the monastery was a place of contemplation and religious devotion. 

Mosques in Rethymnon

The monastery featured the Santa Maria church, dedicated to Mary of the Augustans. With the arrival of the Ottoman Empire in 1657, it was turned into a mosque.

Mosques in Rethymnon

The conversion involved architectural modifications, such as removing Christian symbols and giving the building the name Gazi Housein or Neratze. The building also served as an Ottoman seminary.

A large minaret with two stone balconies was added back in 1890. This remains the tallest and most impressive construction in Rethymnon’s old town.

Mosques in Rethymnon

When the island was free from Turkish rule, the mosque was again made into a church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. Today, Neratze Mosque houses the Municipal Odeon, a vibrant cultural center celebrating the town’s history and hosting art shows and other exhibitions.

>> This Old Town and Food Tasting Private Tour is perfect for tasting the most authentic street food in town and discovering Rethymnon’s spectacular Ottoman buildings. Click here to book.

The Valide Sultana Mosque: A Reminder of Ottoman Influence

Mosques in Rethymnon
Valide Sultana Mosque (via C. Messier – Commons Wikimedia).

Another remarkable former mosque in Rethymnon is the Valide Sultana Mosque. Built during the 17th century, after Rethymnon fell under Ottoman rule, it is today hidden by more modern buildings, and only the minaret is visible.

Also known as the Turhan Hatice Mosque, the impressive minaret-topped building is located in the old town of Rethymnon, right next to the Porta Guora, the Great Gate.

This used to be the turf of Turhan Hadice, who was part of Sultan Ibrahim’s harem from 1640 to 1648. When her son ascended to the throne (1648), she became a Valide Sultana, and among her accomplishments was the construction of Rethymnon’s Turkish School (today, Rethymnon’s First Primary School).

Mosques in Rethymnon
Valide Sultana Minaret, Rethymnon

The building functioned as a mosque until the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1925, after which it was abandoned. The entrance features an inscription from 1816 that refers to restoration works by Hilmi Ibrahim Pasha.

It has two minarets and an old minaret with a cylindrical balcony and a pyramid cover. The mihrab columns have two inverted Corinthian capitals and a semicircular arch with an inscription with a verse from the Quran.

A few meters from the building, a store features an ancient fountain from the 18th century, with nine small pillars and relief half-moons.

Kucuk Haci Ibrahim Aga Mosque: The Loggia’s Transformation

Mosques in Rethymnon

Located in the heart of Rethymnon, on the corner of Arkadiou Street and Paleologou Street, the Kucuk Haci Ibrahim Aga Mosque is a thrilling example of architectural transformation.

Although originally built in the 16th century as Rethymnon’s Venetian Loggia by the famous Venetian architect Michel Sanmicheli, this was a covered public space used to discuss political and social affairs. Upon the Ottoman conquest of the island, it was converted into a mosque.

The Turks changed the loggia’s structure to accommodate Islamic worship by adding a prayer hall and a minaret on the north side. At the foot of the minaret, there was also a fountain with the inscription of a prayer.

Rethymnon Loggia - Former Mosques in Rethymnon

The result? A remarkable blend of Venetian and Ottoman architectural styles. However, once the Turks left the island, the mosque was abandoned, and its minaret fell into ruins.

For decades, Rethymnon’s Loggia housed the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon. However, the museum is now in a different building, while Loggia is home to the museum’s shop.

>> You can read more about the best museums in Rethymnon here.

Kara Musa Pasha Mosque: A Vestige of Ottoman Rule

old mosque, gardens, Rethymnon, Crete

As you explore Rethymnon further, you cannot miss the Kara Musa Pasha Mosque, a shining glimmer of Ottoman rule.

This former mosque, built in the 17th century on the grounds of the former Saint Barbara Monastery, features a striking black-and-white façade that sets it apart from other former mosques in the town. 

Mosques in Rethymnon

The mosque’s name comes from Kara Musa Pasha, an Ottoman commander who invaded Rethymno in the name of the Sultan.

After his successful conquest, he converted this church into the mosque of Kara Musa Pasha.

Mosques in Rethymnon

The abandoned building is located on one of the most beautiful corners in town; it features a mihrab oriented towards Mecca, a domed mausoleum with three vaults, the remnants of a minaret showing signs of time, and a vaulted fountain.

It has a gorgeous courtyard with embellished columns, once towering over Turkish graves.

Sultan Ibrahim Han Mosque in Rethymnon’s Fortezza

Mosques in Rethymnon

Commanding a central position inside Rethymnon’s Fortress- Fortezza -the Sultan Ibrahim Han Mosque stood adjacent to the former residence of the Venetian Rector (governor).

Originating in the 1580s, this mosque began its architectural journey as the Venetian Cathedral of Saint Nicholas.

Mosques in Rethymnon

However, following the Turkish capture of Rethymnon in 1646, the cathedral within the Fortezza transformed into an Ottoman mosque, a conversion orchestrated by Sultan Ibrahim Han, who lent his name to the newly repurposed structure.

Mosques in Rethymnon

Characterized by solid craftsmanship, the mosque is a robust square building with an impressive dome measuring 11 meters in diameter.

Mosques in Rethymnon

The mihrab is at the center of the southeastern wall, oriented towards Mecca. Standing at a height of two meters, the mihrab boasts embossed decorations resembling stalactites and cylindrical rosettes, with a Quranic text adorning the upper portion.

Veli Pasha Mosque: Bridging Cultures through Architecture

Mosques in Rethymnon

Veli Pasha Mosque is an architectural marvel that bridges cultures and eras. Originally built as a Catholic church during the Venetian period, it was later converted into a mosque under Ottoman rule. 

The Veli Pasha Mosque, also known as the Mastaba Mosque, has its roots atop the former Venetian Church of Saint Onophrio. The mosque served as a home to a madrasah.

Some distinctive architectural elements include an array of nine small domes and a Tuscan-style entrance featuring a frieze adorned with an intricately carved vine in relief.

Mosques in Rethymnon

Especially significant is the stumpy minaret, erected in 1789, making it the oldest in Rethymnon. Adorned with two string courses, a circular gallery, and a truncated, pyramidal roof, this minaret adds to the mosque’s structural charm.

The mosque’s design seamlessly blends Venetian and Ottoman architectural elements. When you visit the location, remember that you are admiring the shared history between different civilizations.

Ibrahim Mosque and Its Sufi Legacy

Mosques in Rethymnon
Ibrahim Mosque, Rethymnon (via P. Pietrak Wiki Crosswords).

The Ibrahim Mosque is a hidden gem in Rethymnon. Once a remarkable church devoted to Agia Sophia, this twin-aisled building was transformed into a mosque after the Ottomans captured Rethymnon. Janissary (Ottoman official) Yahya Ibrahim contributed to the town’s development.

It is said that the mosque had an 8-meter wooden minaret and strategically designed windows that allowed to peek into the interior during prayer times.

However, what makes this mosque unique is its association with Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. Local tales say Ibrahim Mosque was a gathering place for Sufi practitioners who sought spiritual enlightenment and connection with the divine. 

The Architecture of Rethymno’s Mosques

Mosques in Rethymnon

Thanks to Rethymno’s complex history, the former mosques of Rethymno share several exquisite architectural styles. From the grand domes and minarets to the intricate decorations and arches, each mosque tells a unique story through its design. 

The fusion of Venetian, Ottoman, and Islamic influences creates a rare visual that will entertain you the more you look around.

Exploring the architecture of former mosques in Rethymnon is like embarking on a journey through time, where each structure unveils a different chapter in the town’s history.

The Fascinating Stories Behind Rethymnon’s Ancient Mosques

Mosques in Rethymnon
Veli Pasha Mosque, Rethymnon.

Beyond their architectural beauty, Rethymnon’s former mosques hold captivating tales that bring the past to life. Think of stories that date back centuries and connect the town’s present with its rich heritage. 

From tales of conquest and religious transformation to the resilience of communities, the stories behind these mosques offer a glimpse into the lives of those who once worshiped within their walls.

So, whenever you visit a former mosque in Rethymno, remember to ask for local tales – your visit will be much more entertaining. 

Preservation and Restoration Efforts for the Former Mosques in Rethymnon

Mosques in Rethymnon
Restoration works in Neratze Mosque, Rethymnon.

Preserving and restoring former mosques in Rethymnon is vital but not easy. Various organizations and institutions are actively working toward that goal, so these architectural treasures continue to inspire and educate future generations. 

The restoration process involves careful research, architectural expertise, and community engagement.

Through these collective efforts, you now have the privilege of witnessing such historical and architectural marvels. Remember that when you visit the former mosques in Rethymno, I’m sure you’ll appreciate your visit even more.

How to Visit and Appreciate Rethymnon’s Former Mosques: Tips and Recommendations

Mosques in Rethymnon
Kara Musa Pasha, Rethymnon.

If you plan to visit Rethymnon, exploring the former mosques should be on your list. To make the most of your experience, here are a few tips and recommendations:

  1. Research the history and significance of each mosque before your visit to gain a deeper understanding.
  2. Whenever you visit some of the mosques open to the public, Dress modestly and respect the cultural and religious importance of these sites, even if they’re not active mosques today.
  3. Consider joining a guided tour or hiring a knowledgeable local guide who can provide insights into the mosques’ stories and architecture.
  4. Take your time to appreciate each mosque’s exquisite details and unique features.
  5. Capture the beauty of these mosques through photography, but remember to be mindful of others.

Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Rethymnon’s Former Mosques

Mosques in Rethymnon

As you see, the former mosques in Rethymno carry echoes of the past and the beauty of cultural exchange. These architectural gems stand as a testament to the town’s rich history and the resilience of its people. 

So, are you ready to discover a world where different cultures and religions used to coexist? Rethymno is ready to welcome you!

I publish new content about Crete almost every day! Bookmark my Crete and Practical Guides pages to learn more before your trip.

Are you dreaming of a getaway to Crete but feeling overwhelmed with planning?

  • You can join my Facebook Group, Things to Do in Crete, a friendly gathering of Crete enthusiasts.
  • My personalized consultation calls assisted countless travelers in crafting the perfect Crete experience. Please email me your anticipated travel dates to turn your Crete dreams into reality!

Don’t forget travel insurance!

Although Crete is a safe destination, getting travel insurance is like having a safety net for your adventures. Consider purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself and your loved ones from unexpected situations.

>> Join our Facebook Group!

More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking this guide to plan a trip to Crete. Remember to explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and helpful insider secrets. This comprehensive Crete packing list ensures you have everything you need.

When it’s time to plan, explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, and be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches. If you are exploring specific areas like Rethymnon or Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Rethymnon

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.
Mosques in Rethymnon

Written by Dimitrios Tsevremes
Passionate about travel, spirituality, and sports, Dimi divides his time between Chania (Crete) and other countries. Writing is a way for him to express himself and his creativity. You can find out more about him and his work here.

Pin this Guide to Visit the Most Beautiful Mosques in Rethymnon Crete

Mosques in Rethymnon

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *