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The museum in Fodele or El Greco’s house in Crete

10 July 2013 / 18:07:58  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

"The place where I was born is surrounded by orange trees, springs of drinking water and a Byzantine church," Domenikos Theotokopoulos wrote in a note in 1606. He was 65 years old at that time.

According to researchers, the artist, better known as El Greco (the Greek), was born in the region of Handakas (now Iraklio – author’s note) on the island of Crete in 1541. The question of the famous artist’s birthplace is still occupying the interest of historians, especially since the artist himself had confused things. In 1903, they found a document of Theotokopoulos’ interrogation by members of the Inquisition in Toledo in 1582 in which he had stated that he was from the city of Candia, which was the name of the island of Crete during the time when it was part of the Venetian Republic.

In 1934, a group of researchers led by the rector of the Spanish University of Valladolid visited the small village of Fodele and informed the local people that El Greco was born and raised right there. He had later left for Venice and then for Spain, where he worked until the end of his life.

As a sign of gratitude to the birthplace of the great artist, they placed in the village a plaque, carved on a rock from the region of Toledo and El Greco’s bust was erected in 1964.


Greek researchers, according to whom the house of the wealthy Theotokopoulos' family was at the old location of the village, namely Skotini, supported their theory.

One of the arguments in support of the claim was the presence of Theotokopoulos' family in the village.

Thus, the restoration of the remains of the only building in the region for which no ownership rights had been claimed for years began in 1987. The large area of 160 square metres and the seven rooms leave no doubt that a wealthy family and most likely Domenikos Theotokopoulos’ family had lived there. Since 1998, it has been functioning as a museum of the artist, presenting reproductions of his works.



The third edition of the festival dedicated to El Greco will take place in August and within its context, artists from across Europe will have the opportunity to paint around the museum from 11 to 13 August. The local municipality will bear their subsistence costs.

The 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death will be commemorated in 2014. In connection with it, the local authorities are planning to organize joint activities with the City of Toledo where El Greco had spent his most productive years, and died.

The museum will present real size reproductions of some of his most famous works.

His 30 most significant works are presented in the Prado Museum in Madrid and in the Louvre, whereas many of his most representative works are displayed in Toledo. According to the latest data, 280 works by El Greco have been found to date. He is considered as an authentic representative of Mannerism and a predecessor of Cubism and Expressionism. During the 16th - 17th century, he was perceived as a painter tending towards abstractionism and resentment as regards the canons imposed and he was often summoned to explain this to the Inquisition.


His works had remained in the shadows for a long period of about 400 years, as he had had no followers in the manner of painting. The first analytical catalogue of his works was made by Spanish art historian Manuel Bartolomé Cossio in 1908. In the early 20th century, with the establishment of Expressionism, El Greco became popular as its forerunner and influenced the works of several prominent representatives of the fine arts. Paul Cezanne was among the first to adopt the elongated figures typical of Theotokopoulos’ paintings and Pablo Picasso considered him as his "father" of painting. His style had a major influence on other painters such as Eugène Delacroix, Edouard Manet and Jackson Pollock at a later stage.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos died in Toledo in 1614. He was buried in the church "Santo Domingo el Antigua."

In the small village that claims to be his birthplace, the search for arguments to back this fact continues. The archaeological service in Iraklio has undertaken to find the so-called "Venetian fountains", which brought drinking water from nearby springs.

The small church from the Byzantine period, which is the only one in Crete, welcomes tens of thousands of visitors before they reach the museum which is surrounded by a small orange grove just like El Greco had written in his note.

Tags: HistoryEl GrecoDomenikos TheotokopoulosFodeleCreteArtist
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