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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Founded: 1462
Category: Castles and fortifications in Greece

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bowen de Vries (8 months ago)
Beautiful historic location and definitely worth a visit if you're in Heraklion. The price for a ticket is 4 euros. They provide some information in English about the location and different times, which was an interesting read. Though the exhibition further inside I was most interested in was unfortunately almost completely in Greek. With the addition of a proper English translation you could definitely spend some more time inside. Nevertheless I recommend checking out this place as it's beautiful and so is the view from the top of the fortress.
Sijmen V (10 months ago)
It was a beautiful place to be. U can have a good view to the sea
Heiko Wisper (12 months ago)
Very interesting exhibition. The side has been well reconstructed. Recommended the visit
Eliza Connolly (2 years ago)
A really excellent exhibit, and very interesting, but there are about 80+ deeply technical paragraphs throughout. I would still highly recommend it, as it gives a VERY thorough background on Heraklion in general, but just consider it more a full museum rather than a quick pit-stop. It took us about 1.5-hours(!) to get through everything.
Yiannis Pontikes (2 years ago)
The fortress is great, and the restoration and history behind also. I would give 5 stars if the people working here were a bit more smiley and friendly. Not fair to generalise, maybe these 2 ladies had a bad day...
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