Close to the scenic village of St. Thomas (Agios Thomas) in Heraklion there are the ruins of one of the largest fortification works in the Cretan inland. Atop of a high hill overlooking the valleys of the Prophet Elijah and Venerato, you will find the ruins of Melissa fortress build during the 2nd Byzantine Era (11th- 12th century).
This building initially housed a local lord that possessed the surrounding land (full of vineyards). Even today the carved wine presses 130m south of the fort cause awe.
During the Venetian Times, the fort was part of the dense and well-organized network of fortresses in Monofatsi province which controlled every movement in the region. Later, the area west of the fort housed the small settlement of Melissa, next to a spring that still has water. Today there is almost nothing left from the buildings.
Its east side is naturally fortified by steep cliffs, while access from the west is very easy through dirt road starting close to Agios Thomas. From the west the fort was protected by a large fortification wall which today survives in very poor condition. The main building of the fort, a small tower, is located amid the fortification.
Next to the tower you will find the whitewashed chapel of the Zoodohos Pigi (Life Giving Spring), which is visible from many miles. At this location it is possible to have operated a small monastery dedicated to Virgin Mary (Panagia Melissani) during the Venetian Era. A similar fort is located close to Katalagari village, housing a small tower, fortification walls and a chapel dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi.