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  • The new facade of Vikelea libraryThe new facade of Vikelea library© Yiannis Makrakis
  • © Yiannis Makrakis
  • © Yiannis Makrakis
Crete as we Live it

Vikelea Library

For many years it stood hidden behind metal plates covered with graffiti and cheesy posters. Today, the historic Vikelea Library is fully renovated, but still remains closed.

Cretazine Tips

- You can access some of the digital archives of Vikelea in this portal. It includes rare historical photos and videos.  

- During the allies’ bombardment of Heraklion in 1943, a bomb fell into the library sliding on the Byzantine wall. Fortunately the bomb never exploded! 

- The Ottoman archives of Heraklion are written in the old Arabic scripture and only those with specialized knowledge can read it.  

- While we wait for the library to finally open, about 10% of its materials are available to the public. 

- The borrowing section of Vikelea Library is hosted –for now- in 46 Taxiarchou Markopoulos street (Ταξιάρχου Μαρκοπούλου), near the church of Agios Mathaios (tel. 2810-399269).

- You can register and search for articles and books through this website

- Vikelea Library produces (or at least it used to produce) an important publishing work. Its publications are sold in the Municipal bookstore, hosted in the ground floor of the new building.

 

Published in  Inside the Walls

TBA: A library!

It took its name from Dimitrios Vikelas, a cosmopolitan intellectual that originated from the island of Syros, who donated his library to the Municipality of Heraklion. 

The library first opened in 1908 and moved in this building in 1930. Its collection was enriched by the donations of Ellie Alexiou, Georgios Anemoyannis and Maro Seferi, who donated her library as well as the one of Giorgos Seferis.  

Apart from the 250,000 books, 300,000 newspapers, 500 magazines and about 1.650 hours of audiovisual material, Vikelea also holds another valuable treasure: seven centuries of archives left by the occupiers of Crete. This treasure includes the Venetian archives –which came from the State Archives of Venice in the microfilm format- the archives of the Ottoman period and the Cretan Revolution of 1896. 

Every book-loving geek would jump from enthusiasm, BUT she or he will have to wait patiently, as the Municipal Library is still closed to the public. The renovation works started in... 2006 and went through the 'thousand waves' of Greek bureaucracy. An important reason for the delay was the excavation of part of the arab-byzantine wall (which crosses lengthwise Dedalou and Dikeosynis street and parts of it are visible in some of the shops!) and part of the eastern tower of Voltone Gate, both found in the basement of the new library building.

The new building

The new building of Vikelea library has a bioclimatic design and will be divided into three sections: in the basement there will be the children’s library; the first floor will host the general library where people can borrow or read the books; and the second floor will host cultural and literary events, as well as the libraries of Seferis, Vikelas and the Archives of Tzedakis and Spanakis. As for the semi-basement, it is planned to serve as a small exhibition of the archaeological findings discovered under the building, with special lighting and glass floors. For the time being, however, you can only visit the bookstore of Vikelea, where books on Cretan history and culture are also sold (some also in English).

The previous Municipal authority has announced that a large part of the building would be occupied by cafeterias and commercial stores. At the same time, an article in the local newspaper “Patris” revealed that a large part of the historical archives lie abandoned in basements without any protection from “book-loving” rodents! As a reaction, a movement was formed in the city: “Citizens for Vikelea”. The main request of the movement was that the whole building will be used to host library activities and nothing more... meaning, no commercial exploitation, full protection of the valuable archives and the development of a dynamic cultural life in the frame of the library activities. We hope that the new Municipal authority will take these requests seriously, and the “Cretan Science Academy”, as the European Commission characterized it a few years back, will 'shine' again by opening its gates of knowledge to the people.