Heraklion Paleokastro Fortress

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Location: Paleokastro

Paleokastro Fortress is one of the many Venetian fortresses built on the island of Crete during their control of the island. Situated about 9 kilometers west of Heraklion, it served in conjunction with Koules Fortress to protect the capital of Crete, then known as Candia, from pirate raids and Ottoman incursions, as well as serving as the prime defense point of Fraskia Bay in the western end of the Gulf of Heraklion.

The fortress was built on a rocky cape, made of limestone, at the end of a large hill with a deep ravine to its north and was given a triangular shape, following the natural terrain. Due to the surface area of the rock on which Paleokastro was built, it was structured in three tiers: the bottom tier housed the magazine, as well as a cistern, while the middle tier housed the barracks and the top tier was graced by the fortress’ church.

The fort’s entrance is located in the southern section, where the walls meet the natural rock face. This is the only gate the Venetians ever built incorporating natural walls. The path up to the entrance is not paved, meaning some care must be taken when approaching the castle.
The gatehouse is mostly preserved today, as are the steps that led to the upper tiers. Remains of the various structures can also be found gradually succumbing to the whims of nature, while one of the small rooms built into the walls houses a chapel dedicated to Saint Mark with some old religious icons.

The best-preserved part of Paleokastro is the walls of the first level, which protrude out of the rock in an impressive manner. The best way to view these walls, however, is by visiting Paleokastro Beach below. There, one can also find a limekiln built by the Venetians alongside the fortress, as well as a cave claimed to have once held a secret passageway to the fort.

Said to be the site of the ancient acropolis of Kytaion, the fort was built between 1573 and 1595 by Latino Orsini, on top of a Genoese fort built in the early 13th century. It was constructed as Ottoman expansionism pressured the island of Crete, with Heraklion’s City Walls not sufficing to defend the coast to the west of the city.
This fortress was one of the last holdouts of the Venetians in Crete, until it fell in 1669, during the Siege of Candia. The Ottomans then destroyed most of the fortress, and its demise allowed them to finally take the capital of Crete.



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