BASED ON MUSEUM OF CRETAN ETHNOLOGY RESEARCH
After the long Arab occupation of the 9th and 10th centuries, Cretan furniture-making, rooted in antiquity, disappeared due to the extreme poverty of the island. Although we do not of course have any specific evidence, it is logical to suppose that, as in all such cases of economic degradation, furniture returned to its most primitive forms.
After the liberation of Crete in 961 and its reintegration into Byzantine culture, it was a long time before the gaps formed during the Arab occupation could be bridged. It took a while for new techniques and models to spread through a large island with a population engaged in primary production.
The cultural revolution of the Comnene Emperors, a harbinger of the European Renaissance, reached Crete with the arrival of nobles from Constantinople who were allocated fiefs on the island.
They came, as was the custom, with many family members and their courtiers, grooms, craftsmen and ladies’ maids.
Tradition has it that twelve families of the newly-established nobility were sent to assume the administration of Crete, but in fact, given the size of the island, there must have been at least three times that number.
The carpenters and cabinetmakers of each noble court brought with them the techniques and models of the Imperial Capital of Constantinople and naturally transmitted them to the ensuing generations of Cretan artisans. From the meagre evidence provided by contemporary wall paintings, paintings and manuscript miniatures, we may conclude that Byzantine cabinetmaking of the 12th and 13th centuries was extremely advanced, with complex panelled structures and widespread wood-turning techniques with many variations on load-bearing, particularly vertical elements.