Cretan Forts


Castel Mirabello (Merambelo Fortress)
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The Mirabello province took its name after the homonym fort, located in the current city of Agios Nikolaos. However, there were more fortresses around, with the most important being that of Spinalonga, which protected the salt pans of Elounda, and some small castles in Kritsa, in Oxa mountain and in Kastelli, Fourni.

Castel Mirabello

The fortress Castel Mirabello was first built probably the Genovese pirate Enrico Pescatore, in 1206 (or earlier by the Byzantines) on the hill today housing the building of the Prefecture of Lassithi in Agios Nikolaos. The fort had almost square shape, with 4 towers on each corner and one taller on its north side. 

The Venetians, who threw out the Genoese, maintained the fort during the first year of the Venetian Rule, in order to find shelter during the frequent revolutions and movements against them. But later, they abandoned it and used it as storage for the salt produced in the salt pans of Elounda (14th century), which was exported throughout Europe. 

In 1537 the Turkish pirates besieged the fort and destroyed it. The Venetian general Gio Vitturi then handed the fort over Michael Klontza, who restored it in accordance to the plans of the Venetian engineer Sammicheli. Concurrently, around the fortress a bourg started developing, which in 1583 had 753 inhabitants, mainly fishermen.

During the Cretan War, the Turks surrounded the fortress and the Venetian commander, Colonnello Baldella, surrendered immediately. For this treacherous act, the Venetians hung Baldella, and when they reoccupied the fort, they completely destroyed it, as they could no longer maintain it. Besides, the fortress Spinalonga fully met the needs of the Venetians that time. Thus, the defenseless bourg was then abandoned till the revolution of 1866, when it began to get inhabited by the residents of Kritsa and gradually evolved to the current capital of east Crete, the town of Agios Nikolaos. From the fort there is nothing surviving, as the materials of the fortress were used to build the new settlement.

The fortress of Kritsa

West of the village Kritsa, near Agios Nikolaos, and very close to it there are the remains of an old fortress that locals call Kastellos. This was protected by very strong, double walls and was built on a steep hill. It is estimated that it was build during the second Byzantine Period (961-1206AD) or at the beginning of the Venetian Era.

The fort in Oxa

Above the lagoon of Elounda rises the high peaky mountain of Oxa, in the top of which there are the ruins of a defensive construction and the ancient town Naxos. It seems that there was a fort that is now destroyed, in which the locals probably took refuge during the period of Arab rule and the pirate raids (7-8th century).


Additional Info

  • Location: Lassithi Prefecture
  • Type: Fortress / Tower
  • Peak Period: Venetian Era (1204 AD - 1669 AD)
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