You are here: Home History of Maleme

History of Maleme


Minon Tomp MalemeThe history of Maleme goes back into the beginning of Greek Civilization as the archaeological findings show. Specifically, at the position of Kaukales Northern of Maleme village has been discovered a Late Minoan tholos tomb in which several shells and two seals have been found, one of cooper and the other from agate depicting a deer. According to the French archaeologist Paul Faure the name of the village Maleme comes from the word μάλαμα (malama) which means gold. Possibly in the ancient times a gold mind existed in this area.

The area now called Maleme is first mentioned in the province of Kydonia in 1577 by Fr. Barozzi with the name Maleme and by the guard of the castle with the name Maleme et Venerocori with 101 inhabitants in 1853 and 28 occupations.

Maleme, with the same name “Maleme” has crossed from the years of the Turkish predominance to the years after liberation until today. When the Turks began to leave the island of Crete, several families from the village Lakkoi came to live in to Maleme. The shepherds of Lakkoi were passing every year from Maleme because they used the capes Spatha and Gramvousa as grazing lands during the winter. After the Turks gone many residents from Lakkous began to buy property and move in to Maleme and Xamoudochori village.

Until then, there wasn’t any church in the village. The first church (Agiou Antoniou Church) was built in 1840. However, the need for a bigger church was obvious. The habitants donated land to build a new church and at 1938 the church of Agiou Antoniou in Maleme was inaugurated.

Soon after, the Second World War came. At that time, there wasn’t any airport in Maleme but the British insisted that is necessary to have one. The villagers donated the necessary lands and the airport of Maleme was constructed. The airport of Maleme was considered of high importance for the Germans and for that they struggled to take over of it. That was followed by the battle of the Airport of Maleme which has been proved the hardest battle in the history of Battle of Crete. After two days of hard struggle with enormous human casualties, the Germans took over the airport of Maleme which actually meant that they took over the whole Crete. The time the Germans took over the 107 hill in Maleme, Crete was under their control.

Kaukales Maleme ChaniaThe village during the German predominance was deserted and part of it became prison camp. There were five to six thousands captives Greek and English. The residents of Maleme sought refuge in other villages. Inside the camp was the church of Agiou Antoniou. When the Germans emptied the camp they used the church as a warehouse for aircraft replacements. Because of that the British bombed the church several times.

At Maleme village there were another three churches in the area of the airport.In the center, about 200 meters above sea level, there was the church of St. George.  The church had to be demolished to make the airport. Nearby were the village cemetery and the church of Agia Marina which also had been demolished by the Germans because it was giving a spot to the British for bombing the Maleme airport. Also, the church of Agiou Antoniou which was 100 meters before Tavronitis Bridge brought down for the same reason.

When the time of liberation came, the village started to recover from its wounds. The inhabitants started the reconstruction of their village. The old school which had been bombed during the war was moved and hosted at the events hall of the village next to Agiou Antoniou church.

Today, there is a school complex in Maleme. Students of the school are children from Maleme and also from many villages nearby. The cemetery is moved to a hillside southern of the village where at the same place has been built the new church of Agia Marina. Finally, a German Military Cemetery was constructed 1 km outside of Maleme village. In the cemetery are buried soldiers who died in the Battle of Crete.