Medieval castles in Greece

Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also known as the Kastello, is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece. The site was previously a citadel of the Knights Hospitaller that functioned as a palace, headquarters, and fortress. According to recent study, in the exact spot in which the palace exists today, there was the foundations of the ancient temple of the Sun-god Helios and probabl ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Rhodes, Greece

Old Fortress of Corfu

The Old Venetian Fortress of Corfu covers the promontory which initially contained the old town of Corfu that had emerged during Byzantine times. Before the Venetian era the promontory, which lies between the Gulf of Kerkyra to the north and Garitsa Bay to the south, was defended by Byzantine fortifications which the Venetians largely replaced with fortifications of their own design. As part of their defensive plans the ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Corfu, Greece

Koules Fortress

The 'Castello a Mare' is a fortress located at the entrance of the old port of Heraklion, Crete. It was built by the Republic of Venice in the early 16th century, and is still in good condition today. The site of Castello a Mare was possibly first fortified by the Arabs in the 9th or 10th centuries. By the Byzantine period, a tower known as Castellum Comunis stood on the site. In 1303, the tower was des ...
Founded: 1462 | Location: Heraklion, Greece

Heptapyrgion

The Heptapyrgion, also popularly known by its Ottoman Turkish name Yedi Kule, is a Byzantine and Ottoman-era fortress situated on the north-eastern corner of the Acropolis of Thessaloniki in Greece. Despite its name, which in both languages means 'Fortress of Seven Towers', it features ten, and was probably named after the Yedikule Fortress in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey). Although the urban core of ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Thessaloniki, Greece

Halki Castle

Halki Castle is located on the hill of St. Nicholas over the old village of Halki. It was built by the Knights of St. John in the 14th-15th century over the ancient Hellenistic citadel. From there they were able to control the sea routes, the harbor and the Trachean peninsula. Inside the castle are the ruins of the medieval church of St. Nicholas. At the gate the emblem of the Grand Master of the knights Pierre d’Aubuss ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Halki, Greece

Kassiopi Castle

Kassiopi Castle was one of three Byzantine-period castles that defended the island before the Venetian era (1386–1797). The castles formed a defensive triangle, with Gardiki guarding the island's south, Kassiopi the northeast and Angelokastro the northwest. The exact origins of the castle are not clear, with various theories being advanced, but they appear to be Byzantine. During excavations in the two towers adjacent ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Corfu, Greece

Monolithos Castle

Outside the Monolithos village is the medieval castle, built on top of a 100m rock. It was built in 1480 by the Knights of Saint John to protect the island from attacks. In fact, this castle was never conquered. The Castle of Monolithos is widely ruined today but it offers great views of the sea and the two islets opposite to it. Inside the castle, there is a small working chapel dedicated to Agios Panteleimon (Saint Pant ...
Founded: 1480 | Location: Monolithos, Greece

Angelokastro

Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwes ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Corfu, Greece

Villehardouin's Castle

Mystras, the ‘wonder of the Morea’, developed down the hillside from the fortress built in 1249 by the prince of Achaia, William II of Villehardouin, at the top of a 620 m high hill overlooking Sparta. The Principality of Achaea was one of the three vassal states of the Latin Empire which replaced the Byzantine Empire after the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. It became a vassal of the Kingdom o ...
Founded: 1249 | Location: Mystras, Greece

Kritinia Castle

The castle above Kritinia, named Kastellos, was built in 1472 by Giorgio Orsini to protect the inhabitants of the village from the attacks of the Ottoman fleets. Until the liberation of the Dodecanese, the village was named Kastelli, from the Latin Castellum, meaning castle.
Founded: 1472 | Location: Attavyros, Greece

Frangokastello Castle

Frangokastello castle was built by the Venetians in 1371-74 as a garrison to impose order on the rebellious Sfakia region, to deter pirates, and to protect Venetian nobles and their properties. The Venetians named it the Castle of St. Nikitas after the nearby church. The locals, however, who never saw it in a positive light, contemptuously dubbed it Frangokastello, meaning the Castle of the Franks (i.e. Catholic fo ...
Founded: 1371-1374 | Location: Sfakiá, Greece

Agios Georgios Castle

The Venetian Castle of Saint George in Kefalonia is located 7 km southeast of Argostoli, above the village Peratata. It has a polygonal shape and covers an area of 16,000 sq. m. This castle was originally built in the 12th century by the Byzantines but it was mostly the Venetians who gave it its present form. In fact, its external walls were built in 1504 by the Venetians. The castle is ruined today and only a few buildi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kefalonia, Greece

Myrina Castle

There has been an ancient acropolis of Myrina since the 13th century BC. The medieval castle was first built by the Byzantines in the beginning of the 12th century. A lot of materials came from the acropolis which disappeared. Following the dissolution and division of the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth Crusade, Lemnos was apportioned to the Latin Empire, and given, in 1207, as a fief to the Venetian Navigajoso family ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lemnos, Greece

Feraklos Castle

Feraklos Castle is a ruined medieval fortress, located on an 85 m-high hill overlooking the village of Charaki. It was originally built in the Byzantine era and captured by the Knights Hospitaller on 20 September 1306, being their first possession on the island that would become their base. By 1408 it was in ruins, and was repaired under the Grand Masters Giovanni Battista Orsini (1467–76) and Pierre d"Aubusson (14 ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Charaki, Greece

Asklipio Castle

The castle of Asklipio (Asklepieion) was built in 1479 by Grand Master D'Aubusson at the site of an ancient lighthouse. In the Byzantine period, during the time of the Knights, the castle also offered the inhabitants of the surrounding villages protection against enemy attacks. It had rectangular bulwarks and two massive towers. Its only gate leads to the south-east corner tower. Two construction stages can be disting ...
Founded: 1479 | Location: Asklipio, Greece

Gardiki Castle

Gardiki Castle is a 13th-century Byzantine castle on the southwestern coast of Corfu and the only surviving medieval fortress on the southern part of the island. It was built by a ruler of the Despotate of Epirus, and was one of three castles which defended the island before the Venetian era (1401–1797). The three castles formed a defensive triangle, with Gardiki guarding the island"s south, Kassiopi Castle the nor ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Corfu, Greece

Archangelos Castle

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Knights Hospitaller who were occupying the island of Rhodes since 1309, built a fortress on the top of one of the Archangelos nearby hills to protect from a possible Ottoman invasion on the island. Ruins of this (castle of Saint John) fortress remain today.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Archangelos, Greece

Kazarma Fortress

The Kazarma Fortress in Sitia stands high above the town and is visible from the beach. It was built by the Venetians in the 13th century as the guard barracks, the Casa di Arma, a name corrupted to Kazarma.  The Kazarma Fortress was the main defensive fortification of Sitia, but it was badly damaged by frequent pirate raids and invading forces. In 1303 it was partly destroyed by an earthquake which struck the ar ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sitia, Greece

Didymoteicho Fortress

The Didymoteicho Fortress is an ancient and medieval hilltop citadel complex. It has been an important landmark since ancient times due to the strong fortification surrounding it. The castle is accompanied by several myths, one of the most famous is that of the Forty Arches, and is where Charles XII, King of Sweden, is said to have been imprisoned by the Turks. Located on the hilltop, strategically placed, due in-part to ...
Founded: 6th century AD | Location: Didymoteicho, Greece

Tilos Castle

The Medieval Castle of Tilos is located to the north of Megalo Chorio, the capital village of the island. Built atop a hill by the Knights of Saint John, during the late Byzantine period, this medieval castle offers spectacular views across the bay of Agios Antonios and a late-afternoon visit probably offers one of the best sunsets on the island. The church of Archangel Michael was built within the castle complex in the p ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Tilos, Greece

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Saint-Eustache

The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.

The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.

According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.

The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.

The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.

With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.