Turkish Towers


During the Cretan Revolution of 1866-1869, the Ottoman Empire was forced to send several pashas in Crete, but the effort proved fruitless. The latest Pasha sent to the island was Avni Pasha, who faced the continuing resistance of the Cretans and decided to change his operational tactics.

Thus, the measures he took were:

  • He provided political protection to those who declared allegiance to the muftis.
  • The Turkish fleet ruled the northern coast of Crete, so as to stop supplies coming from Greece.
  • Put a price on the Cretan rebels, with 500 ottoman pounds each.
  • He settled Kurds and Circassians to the island, in order to strengthen the Muslim population.
  • He designed an entire system of large and small towers (called koules) in prominent locations throughout Crete, in order to fully control the island.

Specifically, Crete was divided into five provinces, the governors of which undertook the construction of koules. The koules were built on high hills, crossroads, ports, passages and their guards spied the rebels and the transporting Christians. They intercommunicated (with fanfare or fire) in case of an emergency and delivered the alert message serially to the main camp (called Kiesle). The effectiveness of Koules was devastating for the Cretans, as they could no longer easily intercommunicate.

The Cretans reacted actively during the erection of the towers, harassing the builders, destroying the buildings in the evenings or destroying lime furnaces, from where the Turks supplied lime for building. Nevertheless, Avni Pasha managed to complete his project by using experienced Bulgarian and Armenian craftsmen, who until August 1868 had built more than 60 koules and 2 months later this number increased to 150.

As mentioned, the Turks called these towers koules, after the Turkish kule. The only difference between them and the rest towers of the island is that koules were built by the state, rather than by private feudal lords and onwers (mainly Venetian).

The Cretans, while trying to free themselves, destroyed several Koules, many of which do not currently exist. However, dozens of areas on Crete have relevant place names (koule or pirgos (tower)), that implies the former existence of towers. Due to the large number of the Koules, here we will not deal with all of them, but a few that still exist.

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The Turkish forts of Fodele
Fodele area was a very important passage during the Venetian and Turkish Era, which made the occupiers build towers and forts at almost every peak. The Turks wanted to fully control the passage of Fodele and simultaneously monitor the bay (the current beach of Fodele), where the Greek ships often beached for supporting the rebels.

Koules of Vamos

One of the many koules (Turkish towers) built by the Turks in Crete that is completely unknown is that of Vamos. It is located atop Koules hill above the village of Vamos and is very hard to reach and identify. Almost nothing survives from this fort apart from the foundations and some scattered piles of stones that once formed part of the walls. The vegetation has covered the area and in some years there will be nothing visible from the fort of a bygone era.


Matala tower (koule)

Koules of Matala is located on the hill Kastri above the famous beach of Matala. The access is very easy, as its very close to the path that heads to the Red Beach.


Kalonyktis Tower (Koules)

The koule of Kalonyktis is located on the hill of Agiasmatsi in the outskirts of the village of Kalonyktis in the province of Rethymno. This large tower was built by the Ottomans after the Great Cretan Revolution of 1866, being part of the large network of towers - koules - for the control of the Cretan revolutionaries.


Kales tower at Monastiraki

At the low ridge that starts from Kavonisi, after the great Cretan revolutions of 1866, the Ottomans built a fortified tower (kule)


Timios Stavros church and fort

Between Loutro Sfakion and the famous beach of Glyka Nera, at Perlovakia, we meet the white brushed chapel of the Holy Cross (Timios Stavros) where a big feast takes place on September 14th every year.


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