The Land Gate is one of the two original entries to the walled city of Famagusta, the other one being the Sea Gate, and is the most spectacular. It is the second oldest part of the walls, after the Othello's Tower. It is also the most interesting part to those interested in military fortifications. Over the centuries it has been called the Ravelin, the Rivettina Bastion and the Akkule, depending on who ruled Famagusta at the time.
The original Ravelin was built by the French Lusignans as a tower that stood outside Famagusta's walls. Its function was to guard the main entry to the city which was nearby. It's name is from a corruption of the old French, reflecting its half moon shape.
When the Venetians took over Famagusta in 1489 they decided to strengthen Famagusta's defences in anticipation of a threat from the Ottomans. They built a new set of walls, and incorporated the Ravelin into the new city walls. Renamed the Rivettina Bastion, it became a huge defensive structure, bristling with cannon emplacements, all connected by a series of passages and chambers. Part of the secret of Rivettina Bastion's strength was that the Venetians cleverly built the new walls, where possible, on existing rocky outcrops, making them very difficult to undermine.
The threat from the Ottomans proved not to be an idle one, and in 1570, the Venetians in Famagusta found themselves under siege. Although the walls were never breached, after ten months the Venetians were forced to surrender, and the Ottomans took possession of Famagusta and the Rivettina Bastion, which was renamed the Akkule, or White Tower, supposedly from the colour of the flag the Venetians hoisted when they surrendered.
When the Ottomans arrived on the scene, the entrance to the city was still through the Akkule, over a drawbridge protected by a portcullis, evidence of which still remains. The entrance used today was built at this time, along with the bridge over the moat.
A visitor to the Akkule today, can still wander through the maze of passages, and contemplate what it must have been like to be here 450 years ago in the middle of a medieval siege.
On the city side of the gate, in the passage leading from the Akkule, you can still see frescoes and coats of arms dating back to the Venetians, while to one side the Ottomans built a small mosque in 1619 for the use of the city guards.References:
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 northwest.
Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.
Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.
The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.
During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.
The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.
From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.
The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.
Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.