The construction of towers was one of the several defensive measures taken by the rulers of Crete (mainly Venetians and Ottomans) to strengthen their domination and protect them from the ongoing revolutionary movements of the Cretans. Towers were also built by the Byzantines (between 961AD-1204AD so as to protect the province of Crete from the raids of pirates.
A tower was a tall edifice built on a strong base, used mainly for defensive purposes. Its shape was circular, semicircular, square or polygonal. Towers were usually built in the exterior walls of a castle, near its gates and on the corners of the fortresses.
Here we will deal with independent towers that were built mainly in the mainland of Crete, aiming at the enforcement of the conquerors against the Cretan people, but also with some towers built near the shores to supervise the sea and to warn the residents for enemies. These coastal towers were called torrete di aviso (warning towers). The Venetians in 1573 planned to build many torrete di aviso at distances that would allow visual contact. These were multi-storey towers and someone could move from floor to floor with removable wooden ladders.
While the castles and fortresses were public buildings, as they were erected under public expenses or with the fatigues of the native population, the towers were smaller buildings which were built mostly by rich individuals or feudal families at their own expense. Thus, the towers usually bore a family crest above their main entrance, which was the identity of the tower. Initially, the systematic construction of the towers started by the Venetian feudal lords and later by the Turks.
Also, in this subsection we shall refer to some buildings which do not have the characteristics of defensive towers, but were actually luxurious mansions for rulers that lived in the villages. The towers, as they are called, were configured to meet the housing needs of the lords, but also offered various administrative and military services. They were known as villas, seray, konak and were playing the role of a chateau.
According to some historical records, the number of towers per province was: Sitia 22, Mirabello 16, Ierapetra 15, Pediada 24, Rizos 4, Kairourgio 9, Pirgiotisa 7. That number soared after 1869, when the Turks built many public towers across the island of Crete (called Koules), which are presented in separate section. Most of the towers are now gone, as they were destroyed by the Cretan rebels.
At the village Giannoudi we meet a three-storey tower which probably served as a fortified residence of a Venetian nobleman. The building has been declared as a monument by the Greek state.
On the small hill opposite the cave Tzanis, we see the tower and the church of the legendary chieftain Hadjimihalis Giannaris (1833-1916) from village Lakki, who wanted to be buried here. Giannaris was one of the pioneers of revolutions of 1866-1869 and the political kneadingtill the Union of Crete with Greece in 1913..
There are the ruins of a Venetian villa of the 16th or 17th century called Rotonda, due to its circular shape. This is believed to have been planned as the holiday house of the Doge of Venice (the king of Venice), however the Venetians did not manage to completely build the villa, as the surviving plans depict.
The picturesque Venerato village, located 20km from Heraklion, was in the 16th-century the resort of the Venetian lords. It was so pleasant for them stay here, that they compared the village to Venice.
Xopateras or Xopapas (nickname of John Markakis from Manousiana village) was one of the greatest revolutionary figures of Crete. His existence is closely associated with the monastery of Odigitria near Sivas.
Above the village Vainia of Ierapetra you will meet the top of Stavros (Cross) with the white chapel of the Holy Cross in panoramic point that controls the entire isthmus of Ierapetra. Just a few meters away from the chapel at position Pirgos (i.e. tower) there is an unknown and forgotten Venetian tower. Its square shape surrounds a semicircular prominence, like as artistic edging.
A few meters east of Fortetsa settlement in Heraklion city, amid a fertile valley with olive and vineyards, we meet a small 7m high tower overlooking the area to the sea. The tower was not defensive, as it was built during the Second World War by locals and was used as an Electric Power Station.
A bit south of Hondros viilage, Viannos district, there is Pirgos peak. Despite the fact that it is not too high, it offers panoramic views to the bay of Keratokambos and the villages of West Viannos. At this hill that is naturally fortified, there is an ancient settlement as there are meny traces of pottery and building bases around.