Cretan Forts

Firkas

Fortress Firkas
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In the city of Chania there are two medieval fortresses, which played an important role in the history of the city and were associated with top moments of the whole island, as well as another smaller and less important to the south. These fortresses are the fortress of Kydonia, the fortress of Firkas and the fortress of Kastelos at Agia Kyriaki. Opposite Kastelli, on the other side of the port, still dominates the fortress of Firkas, built on a low hill, which now houses the Naval Museum of Crete. The name Firkas is Turkish and means division, as the fortress was the seat of the Turkish Division.

Firkas is one of the most impressive Venetian fortresses. It was the main fortress of the Venetian town of Chania, built in a key position and protecting the harbor entrance. Outside the main gate, a strong iron ring (called kerkelos) was placed to which one end of the chain closing off the harbor mouth was attached. The other end was attached to the lighthouse of the Chania port. The fortress still has several underground tunnels, which were used for imprisoning the rebelling locals.

At the fort Firkas, the most glorious page of the modern Crete was written on 1 December 1913, when the Prime Minister of Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos, and the King of Greece, Konstantinos, raised the Greek flag after 800 years of slavery, sealing the Union of the autonomous Cretan State with Greece. Another event associated with Firkas was the removal of the Greek flag on 18 August 1908. The flag was raised by the Cretan deputies that declared unilateral union with Greece, taking advantage of domestic turmoil in Turkey, but this act was not recognized by the Great Powers. Thus the flag was removed by the “protectors” of the Cretan State. Thus, Firkas became a holy symbol for the Cretans, the symbol of struggling for the liberation of the island.

The fort of Cydonia

This fortress was originally built by the Byzantines on the acropolis of ancient Cydonia, on a hill next to the present medieval City of Chania. This point is still the highest in the region, as you look at the right when walking to the Venetian harbor. The plan of this fortress has not survived. The Venetians, after conquering Crete, settled in Kastelli, fortified and adapted this to their needs. Small settlements developed rapidly around the fort, called bourgs.

The fort was connected to the town with three gates. The eastern gate, ruins of which still exist today, led to the neighborhoods of Chiones and Splantzia. The west gate was demolished in 1928 and the third gate led to the down town. The Venetians created many building on the fortress, most of which are masterpieces of medieval architecture. One of these was the new Cathedral of Chania, Santa Maria, the Palace of the prefect (retour), the houses of rulers, etc. Gerola (1900s) mentioned that he saw many buildings of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and imposing entrances, which were the palaces of the Venetian nobles (such as Tzagarolo, Premarino and Damolino families). The impressive Palazzo of Angelo Premarino, built in 1598, is particularly mentioned.

The main road, today's Canevaro street, crossed Kastelli from west to east. The Turks used the fort in the same way, i.e. for establishing the lords of the city. Thus, Kastelli housed the palace of Pasha, the Beys’ houses and the public services of Chania. Kastelli was their shelter, during the numerous Cretan revolutions. Today the remains of the fort have almost disappered.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Heraklion Prefecture
  • Type: Fortress / Tower
  • Peak Period: Venetian Era (1204 AD - 1669 AD)
  • Accessibility: Bus services
  • Opening Hours: Closed due to restoration
  • Website: odysseus.culture.gr
  • e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Phone: +30 2821040095, +30 2821020156, +30 2821094487, +30 2821044418
  • Fax: +30 2821094487, +30 2821044418

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