Koules Fortress

Location: Town   

The Fortress of Koules in Heraklion Crete: The Venetian Castle of Heraklion is called Koules, which means fortress in Turkish. It is an impressive fortress that surrounds the harbor of Heraklion, Crete. The Koules Castle is a massive fortress with two storeys that used to guard the entry to the port. The Castle was constructed by the Venetians in the early 13th century when they conquered the town. The earliest description of the Koules Venetian Castle exists in the work of the Florentine monk Cristoforo Buondelmonti in 1429.

The Fortress was primarily built for the storage of the foodstuff and the military supplies. It also served as the quarter for the officers and as a prison. A devastating earthquake completely destroyed the Castle in 1303 and it was rebuilt by the Genoese. The fortress was again restored during 1523-1540 and got its ultimate form. During the Ottoman rule, the Castle was again transformed to a prison. Several Cretan heroes who revolted against the Ottomans had been imprisoned in the castle and had been killed in the dark dungeons.

The architecture of the Castle is the typical Venetian architectural style. The construction was such that the walls of the Castle could protect the breakwater of the harbor. The Castle was made of stones. The ground floor has a vaulted roof with broad fanlight. The walls were very thick and were divided into 26 apartments serving as the residence of Kastelanos, the officer responsible for the well-being of the castle, as well as the dwellings of the captains and other officers.

A part of the ground floor was also used as the storeroom. There were three carvings of the Lion of Saint Mark in the Castle. The one at the seaside of the castle exists to these days. The upper floor and the basis of a minaret were added in the original construction by the Ottomans. Today the Koules Venetian Castle has been cleaned and restored many times. It is visited by thousands of people every year and consists of the trademark of Heraklion Town.

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