Crete's Heraklion (Iraklion) Prefecture Overview Page Eleven
Heraklion Capital of Crete
Aghia Triadha (8:30 am-3pm daily; 1.45 euros. A short drive (3km) or 45-minute walk from Phaestos which is to the east. Less tourists than at the latter, and smaller as well, but in a lovely spot on a hillside overlooking the Gulf of Messara (as well as view of the coastal plain with the Timbaki airstrip built by the Germans during WWII, but now used for car racing).
During Minoan times the sea would have come to the base of the hill. It is perhaps even more sumptuously decorated than the other palace. It is believed to have been a summer villa or retreat of the ruling class of Phaestos, though no one is sure.
Excavated by the Italians during same period as excavations of Knossos and Phaestos. An anomaly among such excavations, as its contents don't resemble those of the other sites, and is not found in local records. It contains however, beautiful Minoan artworks, including carved black steatite vases: the Harvest Vase, Boxer Vase, and the Chieftain Cup, and fine frescoes as well (a unique painted sarcophagus), exhibited in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. There are little corridors and stairways in this 'villa', which, along with its settled and lack of crowds, give it much atmosphere. Though the 'villa' was roughly contemporary with the Phaestos palace, there are very skeletal ruins of a Minoan house and a shrine with a frescoed floor and walls (exhibited in the Heraklion museum) older than most of the other remains at Aghia Triadha. The main villa is L-shaped, and enclosed the courtyard on two sides only (unlike the other palaces), and on the north side is what appears to have been a Mycenaean megaron built over it.
Aghios Yioryios is a 14th century chapel to the south of the courtyard, with fragments of frescoes. The natural slope hill was used to make a split-level construction for the villa, entrances from the court leading directly into upper levels. On the corner overlooking the sea were fine frescoes, one of them the stalking cat (Heraklion museum). The alabaster-lined walls and gypsum floors and benches were done with great craft. The storerooms with their pithoi represent a another common element with the contents of other sites. The Rampa del Mare is a ramp named by the Italians excavators that runs beneath the north side of the villa and at one time is claimed to have run all the way down to the sea.
A small town north of the supposed villa on the lower part of the site includes remains of a stoa (long colonnaded building), consisting of separate 'stores', identical in size and which run downhill; probably a marketplace. Dates from end of last Minoan period and is not contemporary with the residence. These stores are unique in Minoan architecture. The Cemetery lies beyond the stoa and outside of the site fence and include tholos tombs. It is from here that the Aghia Triadha sarcophagus was taken.