Cretan Forts


Castel Belvedere (Ancient Priansos)
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The fort Castel Belvedere, Rizokastro, Rizou or Chrysokastro was built on the isolated hill Kastellos, that was accessible only from its south side, near the villages of Ano Kastelliana and Kato Kastelliana. Here was the site of the ancient city Priansos, a powerful town that minted its own currency and had its seaport at Inatos (current Tsoutsouras).

The castle dominated the western edge of Messara plane and was built by the Genoese pirate Enrico Pescatore between 1206-1210. During building, materials were extracted by the ancient town Priansos, which was built at the same position. The name Belvedere means good view, derived from the stunning views towards all directions.

When the Venetians occupied Crete, they repaired the castle and added water cisterns, barracks and the buildings of the local castellana. Belvedere Castellania consisted of the current provinces of Viannos and Monofatsi.

During the first centuries of the Venetian Era, when the natives rebelled frequently, the Venetians took refuge in the fortress. Since then, small settlements (bourgs) started forming near the fort, which later evolved to the village Kastelliana. But when the revolutions seized, the fort lost its importance and was abandoned.

The fort hosted six churches, of which only three survive (Dormition (Pano Panagia) , Presentation of the Virgin Mary (Kato Panagia) and Saint Anastasia). Here, near the church of Dormition there is the cave Arapis, where the inhabitants took refuge whenever in danger.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Fortress / Tower
  • Peak Period: Venetian Era (1204 AD - 1669 AD)
  • Accessibility: Dirt track

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