“Green light” for the OAK building in the center of Heraklion, which “hides” the large Venetian tank, with the inclusion of the restoration project in the NSPR
On January 4, 2007, “NK” made history by revealing for the first time to the public an unknown monument in the “heart” of Heraklion. An impressive underground tank of the early Venetian rule, which remained hidden under the former building of EASI, owned since 2004 by the then OANAK, now OAK, at 16 Agios Titou Street.
Although known bibliographically and classified as preserved by the well-known Presidential Decree of 1947, which gave this character to many monuments of Heraklion, the reservoir was not photographed until after the exploration of the Crete Branch of the Hellenic Speleological Society and its archaeologist at the time 13th Tax Collector of Byzantine Antiquities, Mr. Lianas Staridas, with that valuable material being published in a special multi-page edition of the newspaper.
Since then a lot of water has flowed down the gully. The building, on the ground floor of which housed the supermarket of the Union of Heraklion, lived through many adventures, waiting for the historical “justification” of the designation of a listed building that had been given to it in 1947, avoiding most of the times even the auction. And now, a full 15 years later, the curtain of the turbulent history falls with the announcement of inclusion in the NSRP of its restoration project, which will also lead to its use as a visitor attraction.
As announced by the decision of the special secretary for ERDF Program Management and T.S. of the Ministry of Development and Investments Giorgos Zervos, published in “Diavgeia”, the eligible amount of public expenditure, which is proposed for registration in the PDE, amounts to 1,481,800 euros. The decision states that the project concerns “the restoration and static strengthening of a building owned by the Development Organization of Crete (OAK S.A.), located in the “heart” of the historic city of Heraklion, with an underlying monument (designated monument – Venetian tank), which will house the Organization’s services based in Heraklion. It is also noted that the monument is of great interest both from an architectural and historical point of view, and it is planned to be visited by the public. The start date of the operation is set as 01/09/2022 and the end date as 31/12/2023″.
The Venetian cistern, 14 meters long, 6.5 meters wide and 7.5 meters high, was trapped by tons of concrete that had been used for the building’s foundation in 1948-50 and only a small opening through which it was possible to speleologists descend and Mrs. Starida was the only communication between the monument and the building. The huge tank had left speechless those who lived the shocking moments of the apocalypse, as it was preserved intact despite so many centuries that had passed and modern interventions, confirming the minimal until then recorded bibliographic testimonies from Nicolaus Plato and several oral reports. Its construction is extremely careful and dates back to the early years of the Venetian rule.
This conclusion is drawn mainly because of the imposing pointed arch dominating the structure, which is a typical Gothic element familiar to the West. The next possibility is that it is a work of the late 2nd Byzantine Period on the island, which, however, does not seem that strong. But apart from this element, a number of other architectural members, distinct in the building, provide a lot of additional information about the construction of the tank. The reason for this is a column, which consists of architectural materials in second use, coming from ancient monuments, probably Roman and early Christian, as well as a part of a statue, which was used as a structural element in housing the tank.
The team of speleologists went down to the site through the only existing entrance, a 2-meter-deep opening, which leads to the interior of the monument, with the aim of exploring the basement of the building, in order to examine its static adequacy and to establish the form that they must take the required interventions in it. This tank is part of an extensive network, which was built in the underground of Heraklion for the water supply of the city, centered on the Morosini fountain, our well-known “Lions”.
It is worth noting that the most recent piece in the historical “puzzle” of the tanks in the center of Heraklion again bears the seal of “NK” which photographically documented the existence of the other imposing tank under the “Ice Creamery”, next to Agios Titos, in 2014, which was preserved by the Antiquities Tax Office with the data dating its construction to the Second Byzantine Period, i.e. after 961 AD, and its use to be preserved during the period of the Venetian occupation.