Cretan Forts


Fortress Fragokastello
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Small, well-preserved, leaning on the edge of a desert plain of the South Cretan Sea in Sfakia province with the White Mountains as a backdrop and the beautiful beach, Fragokastelo unfolds even today its past, a story full of memories and mysteries. The castle of the Drosoulites, the ghosts that appear during the first hours of the day, was built by the Venetians in the period 1371-1374, aiming to protect them from the Sfakians. The Sfakians were led by the six brothers Patsis, who constantly bothered the Venetian conquers, who could not complete the construction project. However, the Venetians managed to kill the six brothers by treason, according to tradition. On the other hand, in order to gain time, the Venetians used for the construction of the fortress readily carved stones from the remnants of the adjacent ancient town Nikita.

At the site of the ancient town Nikita, today we meet the chapel of Agios Nikitas and the ruins of an early Christian basilica; every year on the feast day of Saint Nikitas (September 15th) feasts are organized in the area. The fortress had been called initially Castel of Saint Nikitas, however, the Sfakians, equating the Venetians with the Franks used the term Fragokastelo, which ultimately prevailed as the name even among the Venetians (Castel franco). Despite its strategic importance and despite the constant renovations or repairs (e.g. 1593-1597 by the General Intendant Nicolo Dona), the fortress does not appear to have played an important role in the subsequent history and was abandoned.  During the last phase of the revolution of the local chieftain Ioannis Vlachos (Daskalogiannis), the Ottomans installed their base in Frangokastelo and they led Daskalogiannis there, when he decided to surrender to ensure, as he thought, the independence of his homeland in 1770. However, Daskalogiannis was tortured by the Turks outside the Fort Koules in Heraklion, skinned alive, and executed on 17 June 1771.

Today the fortress Frangokastelo is not very different from its original form. It consists of four square towers, connected by walls, forming a rectangular fort. Over the towers were battlements for the fighting soldiers. There is a small, arched entrance on the east side, and another main gateway on the south side, which is decorated with carved coats of arms of noble families. Above the entrance is the winged lion of Saint Mark, the emblem of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The southwest tower is taller than the rest; it was the most important because it was the last position of defense if the castle was besieged and protected the main gate. Along the interior walls, there are poorly preserved rectangular buildings, which served as stables, storehouses, barracks, etc. The last reconstruction was made by Nylon Pasha, who in 1828 defeated Hatzimihalis Dalianis, in the Battle of Fragokastelo. The dead men of Dalianis are the legendary Drosoulites, the shadows of soldiers riding horses that appear in the morning dew of late spring.

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Additional Info

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

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