Friday, April 13, 2007

Castles, Buildings & Constructions

The Venetian Fort of Iraklion
Construction of the fortification of La Rocca al Mare) with two floors and twenty-six apartments which were used for accommodation as well as for storage. In order to supply the city’s constant need for drinking water, the General Provisioner of Venice, Francesco Morosini, had a 15km long conduit constructed which ran from Mount Youktas to Iraklion.
In the summer of 1645 the Turks invaded Crete, and in 1648 started attacking the fortifications of Iraklion. The siege continued for the next 21 years, one of the longest in history and it is estimated that 30,000 Christians and 100,000 Turks were killed. The fortifications of Iraklion are still impressive and can be seen in several locations within the city today.

The Fortifications of Chania
The last Venetian fortification of Kastelli, where there were a large number of Venetian palaces. Chania always had adequate water for its inhabitants. In 1645, after two months of Turkish siege and heroic battles, the walls near the rampart of Shiavo (southwest rampart) were cracked and the city was surrendered. Today the fortifications of Chania are visible in several locations around the city.

The Fortifications of Rethimnon
The Venetian fortifications in Fortezza, a solidly-built fort on a hill. The city fell to the Turks in November 1646. Today the Fortezza is well-preserved, while the fortifications around the city have almost disappeared.

Venetian and Byzantine Forts around the Island
One of the most spectacular Venetian castles and a location reputed to have been a pirates’ stronghold is the castle on the small island of Imeri Gramvousa, opposite the north tip of the hersonisos (peninsula) of Gramvousa, Kissamos. The fort occupies the top of a rocky promontory, its walls rising abruptly from the sea and it commands majestic views from its site. Between the island and the cape there is a small boat anchorage in the event of bad weather.
The well-preserved Venetian fort of Frangokastello, near Sfakia in southern Crete is beside the sea and has the Lefka Ori dropping abruptly behind it. Frangokastello is associated with the Cretan revolution of Chrisomalousa against the Venetians and with the heroic battles of Greeks against the Turks in 1828.
Several other Venetian castles may be found on Crete, such as Itzedin, above Souda Bay in Chania, the castles of Ierapetra, Sitia, Spinalonga, and the island of Souda.
In some cases a castle was Byzantine and was also used in the Venetian era. The remains of the extensive fortifications of Profitis Ilias (Kanli Kastelli), Polirinia, Kissamos, are Byzantine with Venetian additions. Nearby in Polirinia are also the remains of very large Greek walls beside a Byzantine church with ancient Greek inscriptions on its stones. The fort of Kyriakoselia in Apokoronas, was also a Byzantine fort which passed to the Venetians.
The Turks used the Venetian castles and constructed new ones, usually of smaller size, in order to maintain communication across the island and to protect themselves from the Cretans. The castles of Aptera, Agia Roumeli and the Kouledes of the Askifou Plateau are such examples.

Venetian Buildings
There are many remains of beautiful Venetian buildings all over Crete. Particularly architecturally important are the Chania, Rethimnon and Iraklion still have visible evidence of their Venetian origin. The old town of Chania retains the ambience of a Venetian town of the past and buildings are protected by a historical preservation law.

Venetian Arsenali
Iraklion have the remains of the Venetian Arsenali in their harbours. The ones in Chania are extensive, better preserved, and they form an integral part of the picturesque Venetian harbour of Chania. The Arsenali were used to make or repair boats, each Arsenale being able to hold one ship.

The Venetian fountains are beautiful reminders of the Italian influence in Crete. The Morosini Fountain in the city of Iraklion was used to bring drinking water to the people of Iraklion (through a 15km conduct from Mount Youktas). Today the lower part contains a large number of very beautiful sculptures around the fountain as well as four lions on the central pillar where a statue of Poseidon had formerly stood.
The Rimondi Fountain in Rethimnon is also an interesting example of a Venetian fountain. It has three subdivisions in which the water runs from sculptured heads. Four columns with Corinthian-style capitals complete the piece of art.
The Venetian fountain outside the Moni Vrondisi, Monofatsi, is also very attractive. It consists of a number of sculptures, and the water flows out of four sculpted marble human heads, giving the impression of a strong wind blowing.
Other Venetian fountains of interest include, in Iraklion: the Bembo Fountain with several marble carvings and a headless Roman statue, and the Sagrendo Fountain with a statue that Gerola believes is Crete, the mother of Pasiphae; and the fountain (the lion-head spout was stolen) in Gorgoliani Monastery, in Malevizi.
The Idomeneas Fountain and the Koubes Fountain, in the city of Iraklion, are good examples of Turkish fountains.

Mosques and Minarets
A number of attractive Turkish mosques (tzami) still survive in the city of Rethimnon. The Ibrahim Han Mosque (converted Venetian cathedral) are also noteworthy.
The Janissaries Mosque is in the harbour of Chania and was constructed in 1645 when the Turks captured the city.