Cretan Forts


Castel Paleocastro
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The Venetian fortress of Paliokastro is located 14km west of Heraklion, on the west side of Heraklion Bay. Today, only a part of the walls of the triangular fort survives. The fort was built on a large tall rock, near which passes the highway of Heraklion - Chania. In ancient times, it is considered that this was the acropolis of the ancient town Kytaeon.

In 1204, when the Genoese Enrico Pescatore conquered Crete, he built 14 forts in order to protect the island from the intruders. Among them was the fort of Paliokastro, which could protect the bay of Heraklion and make the landing of enemy on the nearby shores very difficult. The Genoeses thought that this castle was very important, thus when the Venetians managed to conquer Crete, they kept only this castle. However, in 1211, they were forced to abandon the island.

At the beginning of the Venetian Era, the castle lost its original importance because the Bay of Heraklion could be now protected by the Venetian ships. But when Venice was threatened by the presence of the Ottomans, the castle regained its value. Thus, during the years 1573-1595 they rebuilt the old castle, just like many other castles throughout the island. The castles of the bay were then able to control the entire region, since the cannon shots from Paliokastro crossed with the shots from the ramparts of Saint Andrew in Heraklion Walls.

The castle had sloping walls and three uneven levels. The main gate was located on the south edge of the castle and lead to the lower square, which had many small rooms. In one of them you can still see a small church dedicated to Saint Mark (celebr. on Easter Tuesday), which was built with the ruins of the castle. North of the castle, there was an armory with solid and very strong walls. Right next to it was a water tank. Upon entering, there was a staircase leading to the second level, where the barracks were. Finally, the upper level hosted the church of the castle. On the northeasternmost corner of the castle you could see the winged lion of Saint Mark, the emblem of Venice. The fort was under Venetian occupation until the last years of the siege of Candia that finally “fell” in 1669. The Ottomans gave great importance to the occupation of the castle, so that they could land on the shores of Heraklion Bay safely. Thus, when the ships of Venice were still in Chania, the Turks surrounded the fort, which was surrendered. Then the Turks destroyed it in order to prevent the enemies from using it.

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Additional Info

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


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