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.
Southeast of the Monastery of St. George Epanosifis, till 1671, there was the settlement of Livadia. The village was a fief of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which was leased to various lords of the area. Two names of the leasees that have survived in time are George Dalaporta (1332) and Stephen Foscarini (1450).
Voukolies village is located at the 27th kilometer of the road Chania - Kandanos - Paleochora. It was initially a Turkish village and in 1866 the Turks, in order to consolidate their position, built a strong tower southwest of the village and within half a kilometer from Voukolies.
Inside the Kritsa village, at position Ambela, we meet the ruins of a small medieval tower with one arch still standing. Apparently the tower was used for overseeing the crops of the region, but also for controlling the passage to Kritsa.
At St. John (Agios Ioannis) in Mylopotamos province, located 40km southeast of Rethymnon there is a Venetian house, called “Mansion” that belonged to a Venetian nobleman, who was Islamized during the first years of the Ottoman rule.
The tower was first mentioned in a document of 1226 and still stands in very bad condition. It could accommodate 150 people and had a fortified enclosure. It construction reveals its Venetian origins, but it was also used by the Turks.
Alikianos village, which is located in a lush green area 13km away from Chania, during the Venetian Era was the seat of the local lords called Damolino (Da Molin). In this heavenly place, the Venetian military family of Damolino had built a magnificent mansion - tower, the ruins of which still survive in the orchards of the area.
The tower of Magoulas, in Lassithi plateau, was the summer konak (house) - tower of Chanialis, who stayed there during summers. Chanialis was a Turk janissary who oppressed a great region of East Crete. He was the founder of the family of Chanialis and was an Islamized Christian from Chania (Chania -> Chanialis). His real name was Zade Ahmet Aga.
Ano Viannos during the Venetian era was the largest village in the province of Belvedere. It was therefore necessary for the Venetians to fortify the area very well. As we can see even today, there are some ruins of a Venetian tower found on the western part of the village, which was also used by the Turks.