History of the establishment

Hamam Oriental Suites is housed inside the first of the two Turkish baths

of the Ottoman period in Rethymno, located in Nikiforou Foka Street 86 (Makry Steno).

It was funded at ca. 1630 AD, in the place of a Venetian manor

and it was functional until 1925, due to the population exchange between Cretan Turks and Greeks of Minor Asia.


The building is declared as a historic preserved monument, named as "OTHOMANIKOS LOUTRONAS" by the decision no. ΥΑ ΥΠΠΟ/ΑΡΧ/Β1/Φ38/ΚΗΡ/22542/628/24-4-2000-ΦΕΚ 658/Β/23-5-2000. It functioned as a hammam until the population exchange in 1925 (between the Cretan Turks and the Greeks of Minor Asia), when it was converted into a bakery and a floor was built in place of the central dome.

It is structurally preserved in a fairly good condition after private efforts by the new owner. Work done in the last decade with a painstaking cleaning of later phases of the building. Additional building elements such as stone walls, light constructions of bagdato-walls (chatmades), wooden elements and a large volume of mortar of various construction phases of the building were removed. Openings were made, arches were restored and vaults, corridors were cleared and revealed, and masonry was poured. An adjacent ground floor building (Nikiforou Fokas 86) was purchased with its superstructure to allow the monument to breathe and be restored.

Building description

The building today has the following spaces:

A. The reception, directly from 86 Nikiforou Foka Street, is a four-sided low-ceiling space. There are indications that a window on the south wall has been converted into a door that connected the space with the adjacent small shop.

B. The main area of the Ottoman bath (former oven). It is a single large square space with large arches and a circular frame which, through spherical triangles, the hemispherical dome was carried (completely destroyed today). The space had a great height. With space dimensions of 6.20 X 6.20 m. with an area of 38.44 sq.m. with an expansion of width 0.92 X 4.25 and 4.90m. respectively, to the two opposite sides, north and south. The total area becomes 46.43 sq.m. The clear height of the space up to the wooden loft is 4.68 m. In the western wall, a new opening was created with a wide arch that illuminates the space of the therm, which was completely dark before.

C. The third space has a rectangular oblong plan with a semi-cylindrical vaulted roof. With dimensions of 5.40 X 5.00 m. and an area of 16.20 sq.m. with a height of 4.70 m. to the middle of the arch.

D. Quadrilateral space smaller than space B, the hot room of the hammam, which retains its structural elements, i.e. the four spherical arches, the circular perimeter frame and its hemispherical dome intact and in good condition. The space expands to the west with a large arch.

E. Two small auxiliary spaces have an entrance from the north side of the vaulted space C with dimensions 1.98 X 1.36 NW and an area of 1.90 sq.m. and 1.36 X 2.78 m. at the NE and an area of 2.42 sq.m.

F. Two more small rooms, parts of the old bath, are located to the north and in direct contact with the area of the large dome D. The SE is covered with a dome and has dimensions of 2.17 X 1.62 m. and an area of 3.47 sq.m. The NE is long and narrow and housed with a lowered dome. It has dimensions of 1.60 X 1.75 m. and an area of 4.76 sq.m. Its height is 2.33 m. at the highest point. In this area east of the wall, a later small opening (window) was created to light the area.

G. Small atrium - skylight with great height, was created by removing the floor of the room on the first floor, with dimensions of 2.96 X 2.60 m. and a total height of 7.28 m.

Cross section of the building, ca. 1900
Top view of the building, ca. 1900

Typology of the Ottoman baths

The Ottoman Turks adopted the bath tradition from Syria when they conquered it and incorporated it into their own culture. Since then it has been widely used in urban centers. In Greece there are remains of 76 Ottoman baths in 952 cities and towns throughout Greece. There are many variations in the layout of the spaces but the central warm apartment is always the core of any building. The remaining spaces (locker room, warm and cold section) are arranged in different ways following the traditional process, without significant typological evolution. The Ottoman hammam consists of:

1. Corridor-entrance area from the street

2. A vaulted or domed reception room, the jamekian, the changing room, which was warmly heated for the bathers to change their clothes and dry their towels. In this area bathers relax, usually drinking tea after the bath. In many baths, this first room had a fountain and a wooden patio, where the changing rooms were also located. The office of the head of the hammam (kunhanbey) was usually located on this loft.

3. From a second room - the equivalent of the Roman tepidarium - the souklouk, the intermediate room that is the passage from the dressing room to the hammam, which it is moderately heated (20-30oC) in order to acclimatize the body to the heat before moving to the very hot third room. Hot towels were provided at this point. In the area there were marble troughs with water to cool those who could not stand the heat. The hall also had built marble benches around the perimeter so that the bathers could sit.

4. Finally in the very hot third room, where the temperature reached 28-40oC which corresponds to the Roman caldarium (sitzaklik or “its hammam”), i.e. inside the hammam. The floor in the center of the hall is raised on an octagonal bench to form what is called a giombec tasi. On it the bathers lie face down and are rubbed by the men of the bath called tellak, with the special glove (spartsi or natir). Correspondingly for women. Also, the hall usually had troughs where the customers were washed.

    Aristides Pasadaios argues that:

"because the Quran prescribes that the body must be cleansed with running and not stagnant water, the Roman communal bathing in thermae (small pools) was replaced in Muslim baths by washing by the side of the trough (gurna), a kind of stationary marble basin with water running from a tap (musluk)”. He believes that this is the reason why the Byzantine baths of Constantinople were not used by the Ottomans.

5. The building is completed with the heating center (koulhan), the hypocaust of the Romans that is in contact with the third room.

6. There were toilets

7. Hair removal room

In the Ottoman baths there were no windows, so that there was no heat loss. There were almost always small skylights in the roof with thick hemispherical blown glass. These looked like bottle bottoms or suction cups and were built into the dome of the building. The building was decorated from the outside as well. Furniture existed only in the first hall, the dressing room and the rest areas where they placed a sofa for customers to rest after bathing. Most of the baths were double, meaning that they were used as well by men and women. There were cases in smaller hammams that were used on certain days by men and the rest by women. In this case they had a common cause. It also proves that the baths were used by Christians as well as Jews. In Constantinople, Thessaloniki and Kavala we also find a Jewish bath (Jiahoundi Hamami).

Top view and section of a typical symmetric Turkish bath

How were the Turkish baths heated?

The heating system in the Turkish baths is based on the hypocaust system in Roman baths. Generally, the furnice is built adjacent to the warm space and is also adjacent to the water storage of the bath. There is a hearth and wood depository in the furnice which provides the warming of the bath and the hot water to be provided for the bath. There is no direct entrance from inside of the bath to the Külhan space. For this reason, entrance to the furnice is provided by a separate door from the outside. The furnice, usually covered with a dome, is illuminated with holes drilled on it. In front of the furnice, there is a hearth under the depot where the water is heated.

The bath interior warms up through the channels running from the bottom of the floor to the warm space of the bath. The heat radiating becomes even more intense under the marble navel stone, which is located centrally in the warm space of the bath and raised from the ground with pillars. This point is the highest heat field in the temperature space, because it is the meeting point of all of the channels. From the water depot, the steam is forced into the interior space through a different group of channel openings in the wall, so that the heat in the space is further increased. There is a chimney between the warm space and all the system which ensures that the smoke can be evacuated from the chamber for the safety of the worker in the furnice. The chimney is tubular, made of terracotta.

Example of the hypocaust system
Filgözü: The glass lighting elements


Architectural study for the building "OTHOMANIKOS LOUTRONAS", Evangellos Andreadakis

Sustainability by Protecting of Traditional Heating Systems in Turkish Baths, Müjgan Bahtiyar Karatosun, Tuba Nur Baz

Türkische Bäder, Karl Klinghardt