The Minoan Palace Phaistos with its superb architectural composition and its almost perfect design, is considered the most beautiful representative of all Minoan palaces. The ruins of the old and new palace are still preserved.
Many visitors to the Phaistos call it the most beautiful and interesting archaeological site on Crete. The truth is, here one can feel the magic of times gone by, which gets lost at Knossos with its restoration efforts of non-Minoan construction materials.
Phaistos was one of the most important centres of Minoan civilization, and the most wealthy and powerful city in southern Crete. It was inhabited from the Neolithic period until the foundation and development of the Minoan palaces in the 15th century B.C.
The Minoan city covered a considerable area around the palatial centre. After the destruction of the palace in the 15th century, the city continued to be inhabited in the Mycenaean and Geometric periods, that is, until the 8th century B.C.
Later, the temple of Rhea was built to the south of the old palace. The Hellenistic city was extremely prosperous; houses of the period are to be seen in the west court (upper terrace) of the palace.In the middle of the 2nd century B.C. it was destroyed and dominated by the neighbouring city of Gortyn. Traces of habitation dating from the Venetian period are scattered in the whole area. The archaeological investigation of Phaistos started in 1884 by F. Halbherr and continued by the Italian Archaeological School at Athens, under the direction of F. Halbherr and L. Pernier in 1900-1904 and by Doro Levi, in 1950-1971.
Like at Knossos, the first (old) palace was built at the beginning of the 2nd millenium B.C. (MM I period) and remained in use for about three centuries (2000-1700 B.C.). It was destroyed by fire in ca. 1700 B.C. On its ruins a new palace was erected but was also destroyed in the mid-15th century B.C. (LM IB) along with the other Minoan palatial centres. The palace was abandoned thereafter and only some of its parts were occupied by individuals in the late Post-palatial period. In the Archaic period the temple of the Great Mother or Rhea was built on the remains of the Old Palace period, in the southern part of the palace.
The most important monuments of the Phaistos are:
The nucleus of the new palace is a central peristyle court around which the rooms are arranged: the storerooms and shrines on the west side, the royal quarters on the north and the workshops on the east. To the west of the storerooms is the “theatral area” with the “processional ways” and, in the lower strata, the granaries of the Old Palace period (first palace).
- The Palaces (old and new). They are built of ashlar blocks and spread on different terraces. To the central, peristyle court are opened the royal quarters, the storerooms, a lustral basin, and workshops. The monumental propylon and the large staircases faciliate access to the many terraces.
- Minoan and later town. Sections of the town have been located at the sites called Chalara and Aghia Photeini, SE and NE of the palace, respectively.
- Venetian church of St. George of Phalandra. It lies to the west of the palace, on the left of the road that leads to the archaeological site of Aghia Triada and Matala.
- The West Propylon, the monumental entrance to the palace is the most impressive known structure of its kind.
- The finds from the palace are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
Aerial photography of the archaeological site and Minoan Palace of Phaistos (as given by the Greek ministry of culture)
Our tip: We recommend to combine Phaistos with a visit to ancient Gortyn, ancient Matala and the village Matala