The foundations of the imposing cathedral of Saint Minas, one of the largest in Greece, were laid on 25 March 1862 as a token of gratitude by the citizens for the saint’s protection of the city. The site is said to have been indicated by a monk to whom St Minas appeared in a vision.
The cathedral was built by Athanassios Moussis, the architect of Agios Titos and the barracks in Eleftherias Square, which now houses the Prefecture and the Law Courts.
Building work on the cathedral was interrupted during the 1866 Rising, continuing in 1883.
The effort to build the church in such difficult times was supported enthusiastically by all the people of Heraklion. The contemporary newspaper “Heraklion” reported that a sailing ship arrived in harbour loaded with building materials for the cathedral. However, the committee in charge of the project did not have the money to pay workers to carry the cargo from the ship to the building site.
On learning this, the schoolchildren of Heraklion enthusiastically offered to unload the ship, forming a human chain from the harbour to Saint Minas and singing along to the hard work. The cathedral was inaugurated with great pomp in 1895, under Metropolitan Bishop Timotheos Kastrinoyiannis. Although Crete was still under Turkish rule, the celebrations for the new cathedral of Saint Minas lasted three days, and the whole city was unrecognisable with its decorations and bright lights.