Koules Fortress

Heraklion, Greece

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 destroyed in an earthquake but was repaired.

In 1462, the Venetian Senate approved a programme to improve the fortifications of Candia. Eventually, the Byzantine tower was demolished in 1523, and the Castello a Mare began to be built instead. Old ships were filled with stone, and were sunk to form a breakwater and increase the area of the platform on which the fortress was built. The fortress was completed in 1540.

In 1630, the fort was armed with 18 cannons on the ground floor, and 25 cannons on the pathway leading to the roof.

During the 21-year long Siege of Candia, Ottoman batteries easily neutralized the fort's firepower. The Ottomans eventually took the fort in 1669, after the Venetians surrendered the entire city. They did not make any major alterations to the fort, except for the additions of some battlements and embrasures. They built a small fort known as Little Koules on the landward side, but this was demolished in 1936 while the city was being modernized.

The fortress has been restored, and it is now open to the public. Art exhibitions and cultural activities are occasionally held at the fort.

The fortress is made up of two parts: a high rectangular section, and a slightly lower semi-elliptical section. Its walls are up to 8.7m thick at some places, and it has three entrances. The fort has two stories, with a total of 26 rooms, which were originally used as barracks, a prison, storage rooms, a water reservoir, a church, a mill and a bakery. A lighthouse tower is located on the northern part of the fort.

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Details

Founded: 1462
Category: Castles and fortifications in Greece

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Deborah Adams (16 months ago)
Great views, nice quiet place for a sit and a chill didn't go inside due to having no time
Alexandra Birtar (16 months ago)
A must-see in Heraklion! The fortress was opened and it is very interesting to find out history. Also the views from there are awesome! We visited this place in late august 2018.
Marina Triantafillaki (17 months ago)
Beautiful venetian Fortress! Incide you can find boards with written historical details for the Fortress and the city of Heraklion! The best part is the view from the top and the amazing sunset!
Serpil Kiokekli (17 months ago)
Walking there is incredibly relaxing, especially at night. You can see the sea sparkling and lighted by city lights. However, when you see that lighthouse you know that you’re 2.5km far from returning back!! This place is suitable for running, walking, cycling and even for just sit and enjoy the views and the sea breeze. P.S. This fortress has a great history and should not be left to decay.. For example there is a torn apart greek flag hanging, which should at least be replaced.
Georgios Zacharopoulos (2 years ago)
Amazing castle from the time that Heraklion was ruled by Venetians. The pieces of history that you can learn both for the building and the city itself are interesting and would put things in perspective if you have also visited other parts of the island and Venice itself! The views from the top of the castle are fantastic as well and a great opportunity to relax and feel the vibes of a different era.
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