Cretan Forts


Paleochora Fort (Castel Selino)
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The fortresses built by the Venetians along the south shores of Crete were very few, perhaps because of the lack of ports and bays in the south. One of them, however, was the fort of Selino in the site of modern Paleochora. This fortress was built around the neck of a protrusion of land into the sea, so as to support the domination of the Venetians in the area, which was inhabited by many rebels.

The fort was almost square, reminding of the fort Mirabelo and Kales at Ierapetra. It was equipped with two towers, one on the south side and one on the north. Like all the Venetian fortresses, it hosted quartering areas, houses of officials, a small chapel and water tanks. The aim of the two towers was to control the two bays shaped on the east and on the west. Ruins of these two towers can be seen even today.

In the revolution of Chortatzis in 1272- that was the first major revolt against the Venetians- Selino was still “boiling” after the suppression of the revolt in all other places of Crete. Then, the Duke of Crete, Marino Gradonigo, ordered the building of the Castel Selino in 1282. The rebels, however, managed to conquer and demolish the fort. But the Venetians rebuilt that in 1334. It was then, that a bourg (small settlement) started developing around the castle, which is the ancestor of current Paleochora town. The name Selino means celery in Greek and probably derives from the homonym plant, which abounds in the area. This name was later given to the province of Selino and is used even today.

Later, the settlement was abandoned and the fort was destroyed. Paleochora is mentioned as a seaside village with a harbor since 1866, when the need of commercial communication with the various markets, via sea, emerged. Transferring the products (olive oil, carobs, grain, etc) through the rugged White Mountains to Chania town was impossible, thus a functional harbor was necessary. During the Revolution of 1332, Vardis Kallergis occupied the building and killed the castellan Ermolao Velenio, his family and the entire garrison. In 1539, the pirate Barbarossa forced the garrison of Selino fort to hide in the water tank. In 1583, the fort had 261 inhabitants.

The fort was later restored, but never obtained its original importance. It was shortly abandoned because of the damage caused by earthquakes and rain. In 1595 the Venetian governor of Chania, Benetto Dolfin, restored the fort. Eight years after the occupation of Chania by the Ottomans in 1653, the new rulers of Crete besieged the fort of Selino from sea and from land, until the garrison surrendered. Then, they tore that down, so as to rebuild that later. Today, only a few ruins survive, most of which belong to the Turkish period.

Vlithias Monument

On a hill near Vlithias village, close to Paleochora, the visitor can still see the ruins of a very old fort. The fort, called Mnimio (monument), was originally considered to be an ancient tomb, but today the scientists claim that this is an ancient fort with Cyclopean walls and a circular sanctuary of worship in it.

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Additional Info

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

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