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Sfakia (Municipality, Greece)


Last modified: 2015-08-15 by ivan sache
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Flag of Sfakia - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 27 December 2014

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Presentation of Sfakia

The municipality of Sfakia (1,559 inhabitants in 2011; 46,760 ha) is a mountainous municipality located in the southwestern part of Crete. One of the largest and least densely populated municipalities on Crete, Sfakia was not changed with the 2011 local government reform.
Sfakia is considered to be one of the few places in Greece that have never been fully occupied by foreign powers: the impenetrable White Mountains to the north combined with the rocky beaches on the south helped the locals fight off all invaders.

Not far east from the seat of the municipality, Hora Sfakion, is Frangokastello, literally "Frankish castle". The Venetian fortress here was built in 1371 to deter pirates and, unsuccessfully, to control Sfakia. It is largely ruined but is picturesquely set on a wide sandy beach with the towering White Mountains behind. Daskalogiannis was captured here in 1771. Ioannis Vlachos (Ιωάννης Βλάχος), better known as Daskalogiannis (Δασκαλογιάννης) is referred to as a town clerk, in 1750, and chairman of the region of Sfakia in 1765, and as the owner of four, three-mast, merchant ships. Daskalogiannis knew Emmanouil Benakis at Mani and it is likely that Benakis introduced him to Count Orlov who Catherine the Great had sent to the Peloponnese in 1769 to instigate a revolt there. Many men from Sfakia also participated in the revolt which Orlov instigated in the Peloponnese. In early 1770, Daskalogiannis was contacted by Russian emissaries, who hoped to instigate a revolt amongst the Greek subjects of the Ottoman Empire. Daskalogiannis agreed to fund and organize a rebellion in Sfakia against the Turkish authorities when the Russian emissaries promised to support him. In the spring of 1770, Daskalogiannis made preparations for the revolt at Sfakia, but the Russian fleet in the Aegean, under Count Orlov, did not sail for Crete, and the Cretan revolt was left to its own devices. The uprising began on 25 March 1770, with a flag raised at the church of Agios Georgios of Anopolis, and for a short time, parts of Crete had the attributes of an independent nation, including its own coins, minted in a cave near Hora Sfakion.
The uprising did not spread to the lowlands, and without outside support, it was put down brutally by the superior Turkish forces of the island, who easily defeated the 1,300 rebels. Sfakia was for the first time fully dominated by Turkish forces. Daskalogiannis surrendered with 70 men at the castle of Frangokastello near Hora Sfakion. On the orders of the Pasha of Candia, he was tortured outside Heraklion's harbor fortress, skinned alive, and executed οn 17 June 1771. He is said to have suffered the torture in silence. The Turks forced Daskalogiannis' brother to watch the torturous execution, which allegedly drove him insane.

Near the village of Komitades is the Church of Panagia Thymiani where the revolution of 1821 began. At the village of Loutro is the ruined "chancellery" where the first revolutionary government of 1821 met.
After the Battle of Crete during World War II, the locals helped many New Zealand and Australian soldiers escape from Sfakia on the night of 31 May 1941, suffering great reprisals. King George II of Greece had already escaped this way when the Germans invaded.

Olivier Touzeau, 21 December 2014

Flag of Sfakia

The flag of Sfakia (photo) is made of a Greek white cross on a blue field, with the words ΔΗΜΟΣ ΣΦΑΚΙΩΝ in yellow in the upper part, and the emblem of the municipality on the central and lower part, which is a disk with a portrait of Daskalogiannis.

Olivier Touzeau,21 December 2014