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Kazarma Fortress of Sitia, Lassithi Crete: The fortifications around the town of Sitia and the imposing Kazarma belong to the end of Byzantine Period. Obviously, the Venetians had used Sitia as a base for their Eastern Mediterranean Operations. The imposing buildings of the Venetian Kazarma fortress and the feudal towers that are dispersed over the area are built over the older ruins.
Eventually, the Venetians did restorations on the fort and further extended it. The name Kazarma was derived from the Italian Casa di Arma meaning barracks as a result of the Venetian occupation. The Venetians had built the most imposing and massive monument in Sitia. Kazarma was mainly a military base with barracks for soldiers, yet it was also used as a center of administration.
Kazarma comprises mainly of a medieval building protected by massive walls. The fortress on the top of the hill had walls built towards the sea and met another wall on the shoreline as a part of the defense system. The maritime walls and the fortress are still in good condition, but the walls that linked these two are gone. They built a stronghold inside the fortress in case the enemy breached the walls. The fortress had resisted a siege for three years from 1648-51.
The castle was ruined from an earthquake in 1508, while further damage occurred in 1538 from the attack of the terrible pirate Barbarossa. The continual uprisings by the local people also had led partially to the destruction of the fortifications. In the end, the Venetians themselves were compelled to fully destroy them. This was done with the intention of preventing the Ottoman Turks from taking advantage of them. But they had every intention of rebuilding them. Unfortunately for the Venetians it never happened.
Finally, in 1651 the town was erased completely and then the Turks occupied it. During the period of the Turkish occupation, the walls were not rebuilt. On the other hand, the Kazarma was restored and you can see the Turkish extensions even today in the cupolas (kubbe) above the battlements that were used as watchtowers. The Ottoman period left their stamp above the entrance, in the shape of this lookout turret which made the fort stronger.
Now the Kazarma has been carefully restored. It is open to the public and offers a spectacular view of the bay of Sitia. It is a good starting point for sightseeing. When you visit the fortress, wander around the area to see the traces of the lengthy Venetian occupation, mostly in the fortifications, guard towers and in the extensive villas of the ruling families.
Kazarma is floodlit by night during the summer months; it is the center of Sitia's cultural life and holds the Kornaria Festival, which is a tribute to the great poet Vitzentos Kornaros, who was born in Sitia and was the author of Erotokritos. You can then see concerts, plays, art exhibitions, readings and lectures in July and August, concerts and art festivals are conducted here throughout the year.
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