27 April 2024

Three sculptures in
Rethymnon celebrate
the literary, cultural and
political life of Crete

The statue of the writer Pantelis Prevelakis on the corner of Kountouriotou street and Kallergis street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Two statues outside the town hall on Kountouriotou street in the centre of Rethymnon celebrate two of the leading literary figures in the cultural life of the city, the writer Pantelis Prevelakis and the linguist Georgios Nicolaou Chatzidakis. And they face a large statue of perhaps the most important 20th century politician from Crete.

A statue of Pantelis Prevelakis shows the writer seated by the corner with Kallergis street, facing the mountains and with his back to the sea. He was a novelist, poet, dramatist and essayist, and one of the leading writers associated with the ‘Generation of the ‘30s’ movement in Greece. His best-known work, The Tale of a Town, which I first read in the 1980s, celebrates Rethymnon in a way that could be compared with the way in which James Joyce celebrates Dublin.

Pantelis Prevelakis was born Παντελής Πρεβελάκης in Rethymnon on 18 February 1909. He studied law, philosophy, literature and art in Athens Paris and Thessaloniki and became known for his poetry, prose, drama and essays. Most of his works are set in Crete.

From about 1930, Prevalakis was a friend and agent of the writer and poet Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), who was born in Iraklion, and eventually Pantelis wrote a biography of Kazantzakis, Nikos Kazantzakis and His Odyssey. A Study of the Poet and the Poem.

His best-known book, Το χρονικό μιας Πολιτείας (The Tale of a Town or The Chronicle of a Town), was published in 1937 and is a nostalgic depiction of life in Rethymnon from 1898 to 1924.

The statue of Eleftherios Venizelos facing the town hall and the statues of Prevalakis and Chatzidakis in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Prevalakis published an historical novel, The Death of the Medici, in 1939. After World War II, he published Wretched Crete: a chronicle of the rising of 1866 (1945). This was followed by his trilogy, The Cretan (1948-1950), which refers to events in Cete between 1866 and 1910 and introduces historical characters such as Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936).

Venizelos, whose statue faces the town hall, the statues of Prevalakis and Chatzidakis, and the sea, was also born in Crete and was a towering figure in Greek politics at the end of the 19th and in early 20th century.

Other works by Prevalakis include The Sun of Death (1959), in which a boy comes to terms with human mortality. He also wrote four plays, all based on historical themes.

His biography of Kazantzakis was translated from Greek into English by Philip Sherrard, with a preface by Kimon Friar, and was published in 1961, four years after Kazantzakis died.

In academic life, Prevelakis was a professor of art history in the Academy of Arts in Athens from 1939 to 1975. He died in Athens on 15 March 1986. However he was brought back to Crete and was buried in Rethymnon in a churchyard near the top of the hill on Kazantzakis Street.

The statue of the philologist and linguist Georgios N Chatzidakis in front of the town hall in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The second literary sculpture on the terrace in front of Rethymnon Town Hall is a bust of Georgios Nicolaou Chatzidakis (1848-1941), the philologist who is celebrated as the father of linguistics in Greece.

Georgios Nicolaou Chatzidakis was born Γεώργιος Νικολάου Χατζιδάκις on 23 November (OS 11 November) 1843 in the small mountain village of Myrthios, 20 km south of Rethymnon. The family took part in the many Cretan revolts against the Ottoman Empire, and his grandfather Kyriakos Chatzidakis was a captain in the uprising in 1821.

Georgios Chatzidakis went to school in Rethymnon, and at the age of 18 fought alongside his father in the uprising of 1866-1869. After three years further education in Athens, he enrolled in the faculty of philosophy of the University of Athens to study classics and philology. A scholarship enabled him to study linguistics in Germany at the University of Leipzig with some of the most famous specialists of the day.

After returning to Greece, Chatzidakis was first a grammar school teacher in Athens and then received his doctorate with his thesis on the history of the Greek language. He was the first chair of Linguistics and Indian Philology at the University of Athens in 1890-1923. His book in German, Introduction to the Grammar of Modern Greek (1892) brought him to the attention of academic circles throughout Europe.

Chatzidakis was a 50-year old in the University of Athens when he enlisted again as a volunteer in the new Cretan uprising in 1897.

Chatzidakis was also a successful academic administrator, and in 1925 he became the first President of Greece’s second university, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Chatzidakis is best-known today for his contribution to the serious study of the history and morphology of the modern Greek language. He put to rest older theories that modern Greek derives from the ancient Dorian and Aeolic dialects, and showed instead that modern Greek evolved from the Hellenistic koine Greek.

He opposed advocates of the archaïzousa, in effect an artificial form of Attic Greek promoted by extreme conservatives. However, Chatzidakis was a lifelong supporter of the katharévousa, the archaically tinged formal Greek used by many scholars and government officials.

Unlike progressive political radicals at the time, he did not approve of dhimotikí, the vernacular form of Greek spoken everyday outside official contexts.

He died on 28 June 1941 in Athens, but he is remembered with pride in his home town with the sculpture outside the town hall in Rethymnon.

Another member of the Chatzidakis family from Myrthios near Rethymnon was the composer Manos Hatzidakis (1925-1994). He is often associated with the title song of the film ‘Never on Sunday’ … so, perhaps, his story is more appropriate tomorrow on Sunday afternoon.

The statue of the writer Pantelis Prevelakis in front of the Town Hall in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Easter 2024:
28, 27 April 2024

‘Raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness’ (Collect of the Day) … looking out towards the sea through a window in Saint George’s Church in Panormos, Crete, earlier this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Easter is a 50-day season that continues until the Day of Pentecost (19 May 2024). Tomorrow is the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Easter V), although this is still the Season of Great Lent in Greece, and tomorrow (28 April 2024) is Palm Sunday in the calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship celebrates the life and witness of the poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), who was closely identified with the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, and often remembered for her poem and Christmas carol ‘In the bleak mid-winter’.

Throughout this Season of Easter, my morning reflections each day include the daily Gospel reading, the prayer in the USPG prayer diary, and the prayers in the Collects and Post-Communion Prayer of the day.

/> Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday in the calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church … a fresco in Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 14: 7-14 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’

‘Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός … I am the Good Shepherd …’ (John 10: 11; see the Post-Communion Prayer) … Christ the Great High Priest depicted in Saint Nektarios Church in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Today’s Prayers (Saturday 27 April 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), has been ‘Living by faith is hard, and it is never the obvious path.’ This theme was introduced last Sunday with an extract taken from a sermon by the Revd Chris Parkman, Chaplain at Saint John’s Menton, and volunteer for A Rocha France at Les Courmettes.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (27 April 2024, South Africa Freedom Day) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for all who are oppressed. May the remembrance of South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections inspire us to work for the self-determination of every nation and person.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.

Collect on the Eve of Easter V:

Almighty God, who through your only–begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow

Christina Rossetti, by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti … she is remembered in ‘Common Worship’ on 27 April

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org