Chania Frangokastello Fortress

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Location: Frangokastello

Closed for renovation
Frangokastello fortress is an important historical monument located in the region of Chania, 12 kilometers east of Sfakia. Built between 1371 and 1374 AD by the Venetians, who had conquered Crete at that time, this castle was set up to protect the area and the noblemen’s properties from pirate and enemy attacks. It was also used to suppress the frequent revolts of the people of Sfakia, who were still resisting the Venetian conquerors.

At first, it was named the ‘Castle of Saint Nikitas’ in honor of a nearby church; however, the locals would call it Frangokastello, which means Castle of the Franks, and the name was gradually adopted by the Venetians too. According to a local tradition, men from Sfakia led by the six Patsos brothers used to attack by night and destroy everything the Venetians had constructed by day so that they would not be able to move against the inland. Eventually, the Patsos brothers were trapped and hanged, and construction was completed.

Frangokastello is rectangular in shape, with a strong, massive tower at each of the four corners. The gigantic main gate stands on the southern side, and the Lion of Saint Mark, as well as the coats of arms of four illustrious Venetian families, can still be seen carved above the entrance. However, all the buildings and fortifications that we can see today inside the castle walls were renovated by the Turks during the 19th century.

Another legend connected to Frangokastello is that of the Drosoulites. In 1828, the Cretans rose up against the Turks and 600 men from Epirus under Hatzimichalis Dalianis came to support the Cretan Revolution. In May 1828, they locked themselves in Frangokastello, rejecting the Cretans’ advice that this was not a safe location. Outside the walls, 8,000 Turkish soldiers were besieging them. After a week, on May 17th, the Turks managed to enter the castle and 335 Greeks were killed. However, their bodies were left unburied, until a strong wind covered them with sand from the nearby beach of Orthi Ammos.

Legend has it that since then, Dalianis’ dead soldiers appeared again toward the end of May or the beginning of June. Their dark shadows rise from the sand and walk or ride their horses toward the sea, where they disappear in the water. This always happens around sunrise, on days when the sea is calm and the air moist. The phenomenon only lasts about 10 minutes. As these ghosts appear with the morning dew, they have been named Dew Men, or Drosoulites in Greek. Scientists believe that they are reflections of the sun’s rays; however, many people have reported seeing these ghosts.



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