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Tomb of N. Kazantzakis

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Kazantzakis in the pantheon of great modern Greek writers or to neatly sum up his monumental list of literary accomplishments in a short space. But what you should probably know is that before they were movies, both Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ were acclaimed novels and Kazantzakis wrote them both. He also wrote other novels—lots of them—travel books, essays and plays and perhaps most ambitiously, he wrote a sequel to Homer’s The Odyssey, with some 33,333 verses. There is a faithful recreation of the author’s library, along with numerous copies of all his published books, at the fabulous Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion. His tomb is located right on the top of the Venetian Walls, across the Cultural Center of Heraklion.

An icon today, Kazantzakis was something of an iconoclast in his time. He wrote in Demotic Greek, the modern vernacular version of the Greek language, at a time when the literary fashion favored the older, classic form of Greek. He asked questions about his religious faith at a time when doing so could be and often was, construed by the powers that be as blasphemous. Consider that The Last Temptation was published in 1955, a time when the deeply conservative Greek Orthodox Church held far more sway in terms of public opinion that it does today. Indeed, the church excommunicated Kazantzakis and after his death in 1957, refused to allow him to be buried in a cemetery. Something to contemplate, perhaps, on a visit to the author’s well-maintained grave: it sits on top of a section of the ancient Venetian ramparts, from which you can see all of Heraklion before you, stretching out to the edge of the Mediterranean.

Good to Know

The Venetian Walls ( Martinengo)
Free entrance
Private tours are available upon request

The museum

Kazantzakis Museum In Myrtia village one can visit the museum of Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the first personal literary museums in Greece. The museum was inaugurated on June 27, 1983 by the Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri. Many visitors from Greece and abroad, have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the personality of the author of Zorbas through letters and diaries, personal items and mementos of his travels, scarce photographs, and his books.