Cretan Forts

Temenos

Temenos Fort
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The village of Kanli Castelli, today known as Prophet Elijah, is located about 18km south of Heraklion, at the start of Malades valley. The village is situated at the foot of the steep two-peaked hill Rocca, on which even today there ruins of the fort Kanli Castelli, after which Prophet Elijah took its old name.

The hill was ideal for the construction of an impregnable castle, as it dominates throughout the surrounding area. Also, there was a natural fresh water source on Rocca, which fed the fountain Fountana, located inside the fort.

Rocca is believed to be the acropolis of the ancient city Lykastos, mentioned by Homer. Much later, when Nicephorus Phocas liberated Crete from the Saracen pirates in 961AD, he first founded a fort on Rocca, in order to transfer the city of Candia there. The fort was built, but Candia (current Heraklion) was not moved, as its port was very important for the Cretans. Thus, the fortress was left alone overlooking the region and was named Temenos. Even today, the whole province is called Temenos Province.

In 1204, when the Genoese count of Malta and pirate Henry Pescatore conquered Crete, he immediately either founded or repaired 15 fortresses to ensure his control of the island. One of these was the fort of Temenos.

Later, when the Venetians occupied Crete in 1209, they fortified Temenos with stronger walls and repaired it according to the modern needs. The fort, which was characterised as oppidum fortissimum (powerful fortress) was named Castello Temene and was granted as a fief to the families of Coressi, Kornaros (Corner) and Querini. Since then, a bourg (settlement) started developing around the fort, inhabited by villeins, i.e. slavers of the feudal properties. This settlement evolved into the current village of Prophet Elias.

The Venetians first used the fort for shelter during the several revolutions of Cretans. During the first movement, the Revolution of Agiostefanites (in 1211), the first duke of Crete, James Tiepolo, requested the help of the duke of Naxos, Sanudo, so as to regain the eastern Crete. Indeed, they both defeated Cretans and suppressed the revolt. However, after their victory, Tiepolo refused to honor the terms of his agreement with Sanudo and the latter allied with the Cretan noble Skordilis against Tiepolo. Tiepolo and his army found refuge in Temenos fort, surviving from real disaster. There he regrouped and waited for support from Venice, till he counterattacked and forced Sanudo turn away from Crete.

During the Cretan War, i.e. the war between Venetian-Cretans and Turks, most battles took place in the countryside, as the Great Castle of Candia resisted for 22 years. In the wider area of Heraklion, Christians were led by the abbot of the monastery Agarathos, Athanasios Christoforos and the scholar Gerasimos Vlachos, while the Venetian general Gildasis (Gil d 'Has) attacked the Turks in several places. During one of these attacks, in 1647, Gil d’ Has attacked the Turks who had occupied the fortress Temenos, slaughtering almost all of them. In 1669, after the Turks conquered Candia, the fort was donated by the Sultan to the Venetian traitor of Candia, Andrea Barozzi. The fort was then named Kanli Castelli, i.e. bloody fort, so as to commemorate the massacre of the Turkish army in 1647. However, there were references to the fort, naming it as Nefs Temenos.

On the east side of Rocca, the visitor can still see the remains of the walls, two tanks and the church of St. George. Between the two peaks there is a part of the fortifications surviving and the church of Agia Paraskevi. On the west, there is a double tank, the fountain Fountana and the churches of the Virgin Mary and St. Anthony.

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Additional Info

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

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