This paper attempts to highlight the ambivalent relationship between the city of Heraklion and the material culture of the past, when, with the advent of modernity at the beginning of the 20th century, the city was required to define its Greekness in relation to the present through the choosing of the “expedient past”. The rediscovery of Minoan Crete is used by the authorities as the important symbolic resource for the construction of national identity and the struggle for the union of Crete with Greece. The Minoan current also affected archaeological knowledge, since all places that bore Ottoman elements were categorized as sites that were not in need of protection and promotion.
This field of study is explored based on the case study of the Venetian monastery of St Peter of the Dominicans at Bedenaki, Heraklion, one of the oldest and largest monasteries of the period of Venetian rule in Crete, that today, restored, dominates the north side of the walled city of Heraklion within the Venetian fortifications. The monastery of St Peter of the Dominicans, from the beginning of the 20th century up to the early 1970s, is converted from a holy place (a Venetian monastery and a mosque during Ottoman times) to a place of trivialized and profane use (Douglas 1966) (cinema, ice factory, carpenter’s shop).
The time period this paper aims to describe is “thick” (Geerz 2009): the period from the beginning of the 20th century, when the Cretans, having an autonomous status, found themselves fighting to merge with the independent Greek state, up until the 1970s, when the local authorities and the local Ephorate of Antiquities urged the restoration of the historical building for the first time, a powerful bureaucratic practice which would allow St Peter of the Dominicans to be classified as a valuable, collectively legible place.