Rethymno Fortress

Rethymno, Greece

The Fortezza (fortress) is the citadel of the city of Rethymno in Crete. It is built on a hill which was the site of ancient Rhithymna's acropolis. Between the 10th and 13th centuries, the Byzantines established a fortified settlement to the east of the hill. It was called Castrum Rethemi, and it had square towers and two gates. The fortifications were repaired in the beginning of the 13th century.

Venetian era

Following the fall of Cyprus to the Ottomans in 1571, Crete became the largest remaining Venetian overseas possession. Since Rethymno had been sacked, it was decided that new fortifications needed to be built to protect the city and its harbour. The new fortress, which was built on the Paleokastro hill, was designed by the military engineer Sforza Pallavicini according to the Italian bastioned system.

Construction began on 13 September 1573, and it was complete by 1580. Although the original plan had been to demolish the old fortifications of Rethymno and move the inhabitants into the Fortezza, it was too small to house the entire city. The walls along the landward approach to the city were left intact, and the Fortezza became a citadel housing the Venetian administration of the city. It was only to be used by the inhabitants of the city in the case of an Ottoman invasion.

Ottoman era

On 29 September 1646, during the Fifth Ottoman–Venetian War, an Ottoman force besieged Rethymno, and the city's population took refuge in the Fortezza. Conditions within the citadel deteriorated, due to disease and a lack of food and ammunition. The Venetians surrendered under favourable terms on 13 November.

The Ottomans did not make any major changes to the Fortezza, except the construction of a ravelin outside the main gate. They also built some houses for the garrison and the city's administration, and they converted the cathedral into a mosque. The fort remained in use until the early 20th century.

Today

Large-scale restoration work has been under way since the early 1990s. The Fortezza is managed by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and it is open to the public. The Ottoman ravelin now houses the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno.

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Details

Founded: 1573-1580
Category: Castles and fortifications in Greece

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Stephen Leather (8 months ago)
Beautiful place with lots of interesting history. Particularly lovely in the evening.
Parsclick (8 months ago)
It’s good to visit but this place needs a bit of refreshment and cleaning with good maintenance.
dave leather (9 months ago)
Good to explore with children, could do with some signs around the grounds explaining what things are, although you do get a free guide on entry.
Owen Miller (9 months ago)
Nice evening walk. Very little shade. Time it right and you can catch the sunset.
Ralph Mettier (rmettier) (9 months ago)
Historically interesting, nicely kept site with some great views in all directions. Beware of visiting in the middle of the day though, because you're brutally exposed to the glaring sun. Good documentation in Greek and English and reasonable entry prices (10€ for the familiy ticket). Expect to spend about an hour to 90 minutes.
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