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 adja ...
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

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 di ...
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

Kremasti Castle

Kremasti Castle looks more like a tower-house than a real castle. Of square plan, it covers an area of 400 square metres and has a perimeter of 80 metres. The only entrance was on the north side. In 1914, the Italian medievalist G. Gerola discovered there the arms of grand master Fabrizio del Carretto (1513-1521) and of the Order of St. John. The castle was a control point and in the line of sight of Phileremos castle. I ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kremasti, Greece

Pantokratoras Monastery

Pantokratoras monastery, standing on the summit of the mountain of the same name, enjoys scenic views of the entire island of Corfu, the surrounding islands and the mainland. The first construction was built in 1347 and destroyed in 1537, while the building we admire today dates back to the late 17th century. Besides the stone church there are portico and inner courtyards. Entering in the monastery you have not a feeling ...
Founded: 1347 | Location: Corfu, Greece

Lardos Castle

Lardos castle was built sometime in the 12th century, during the Byzantine era. When the Knights of the Order of St. John invaded the island in 1309, one of their immediate priorities was to locate ideal sites on which they could erect forts so that they could be used as lookout posts over the sea, but also to protect the soldiers from the enemy. When they came to Lardos, they discovered an entire fort from the Byzantine ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lardos, Greece

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kisimul Castle

Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.

Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.

The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.