Chania Izzedin Fortress

Location: Kalami

The fortress of Izzedin is a 19th-century fortress built on a hill overlooking the sea. It is located 14 km east of Chania, on the outskirts of a village called Kalami. This fortress was constructed in 1872 by Rauf Pasha, Wali or Governor of Crete, which was at that time part of the Ottoman Empire. It is a typical example of 19th-century Ottoman military architecture and constituted the main defending spot of Souda Bay. The fortress was named after Sultan Abdulaziz’s first-born son and was constructed on the location of an older watchtower.

During the brief period of Cretan autonomy, as well as following Crete’s integration into Greece in 1912, the fortress served as a prison. Izzedin Fortress saw some notable inmates, including Greek prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, who was sentenced to 2 weeks in 1903, after his journalism was deemed “offensive” by the Archbishop of Crete. During the dictatorship of Theodoros Pangalos, it mainly housed his political opponents, yet the dictator himself was imprisoned here for 2 years following his deposition in 1926. During the German occupation, the prison was shut down, and it remained so until the latter half of the Greek Civil War when it accommodated political prisoners transferred from Gyaros island.

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Eventually named Kalami Prison, it functioned as a political prison until the fall of the Greek military Junta (1974). Notable politician Manolis Glezos was held here in 1959, charged with spying for the USSR, and founded a journalism school among his inmates during his six-month sentence. Death sentences were sometimes carried out at Izzedin, most notably the last death sentence in Greece, which took place here on August 25th, 1972, when a murderer named Vasilis Lymperis was executed by firing squad.

A few movies have been filmed at Izzeddin, most notably Days of ‘36 in 1972, an anti-dictatorship film implicitly comparing the then-current Junta to the regime of Ioannis Metaxas in 1936, as well as Petrina Chronia and To Teleftaio Simioma, made 3 decades apart by Pantelis Voulgaris.

Since the prison shut down, the fortress has been abandoned. Despite an effort from local authorities to restore the fortress, Izzeddin is overgrown with grass and somewhat unstable. Still, it attracts many visitors, both local and foreign, who wish to see the conditions the prisoners were held in back in the day. The fortress is only officially open to the public on December 14th and 15th, in celebration of St. Eleftherios, whose chapel was built by the prisoners held at Kalami. Occasionally, however, the fortress’s yard has hosted live performances by musicians such as Yannis Charoulis and Thanos Mikroutsikos.

Visitors find their way into the castle even when the gate is shut, as there is a large opening to the right of the main gate. However, caution is advised, and access to the upper floor is generally discouraged, as most of the staircases are in disrepair. For those experienced enough to make their way up to the ramparts, however, stunning views of Souda Bay await.



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