Fortezza

Venetian Castles

Fortezza

Rethymnon, the third largest town on Crete, has been occupied since antiquity and thrived under Venetian rule between the 13th until the 17th century. Among its many impressive historical sights and landmarks is the Fortezza, one of the largest Venetian castles ever built. The fortress perches on the hill of Palaiokastro, where a temple honouring the goddess Artemis stood in ancient times. Wherever you are in Rethymnon, if you look up, you can see the Fortezza in all its majestic glory.

This huge structure was built in 1573 by the Venetians, on the site of an earlier fortress in ruins, to protect the town against invading Ottomans. The forced labour of more than 100,000 Cretans and 40,000 pack animals was used in its construction. In 1645, yet another powerful Ottoman force threatened the city and the city’s entire population took refuge in the Fortezza. The Venetians were defeated in the fifth Ottoman- Venetian War and the citadel fell into Ottoman hands as the Ottomans captured the city. The fort remained in use by the Ottomans for centuries thereafter and up until the early 20th Century. Following the end of World War II, the city of Rethymnon had grown so much that many inhabitants on the site moved elsewhere and their houses were torn down.

After intensive restoration in the 1990’s, the Fortezza opened its gates to the public. People from all over the world came to view its huge walls and battlements, its bastions, fortified gates and its astounding panoramic view of the town and the shore. Today, visitors can see the church of Aghios Theodoros Trichinas alongside the Ibraham Han mosque within the enclosures, as well as the 20th-century Theatre of Erofili, which hosts many concerts and theatrical plays every summer. Preserving centuries of history within its walls, the Fortezza remains to be Rethymno’s most impressive landmark and monument.

Frangokastello

It is a venetian castle in the south shores of Crete, roughly 12 km eastern of the Chora Sfakion. It is one of the most famed castles in Greece, mainly because of the phenomenon known as “Drosoulites” which is observed in the field around the castle, sometimes in the early days of spring.

It was built in the years between 1371-74, from the Venetians, who dominated Crete those years, for the protection from the pirates, and from the frequently revolted Sfakians. According to the local tradition, the castle was built during the day by the Venetians, and at night the Sfakians led by the 6 Patsos brothers, were destroying everything was built during daytime. Finally the Venetians arrested and executed the Patsos brothers, and were able to finish the construction of the castle.

In some years, during late May and early June, in the first morning breeze, the Drosoulites appear in the Frangokastello beach. Drosoulites are the ghosts of the dead warriors of Chatzimichalis Dalianis who were killed during defending the fortress in 17 May 1828.

In this battle, 600 brave young men stood against 8000 Turks for a week, but in the end, 335 were killed, along with their captain. The dead Turks were 800. According to the legend, the bodies of the Greek fighters were left unburied until a strong wind brought wind from the Orthi Ammos beach and covered their corpses.

Drosoulites appear on the last days of May and on the first days of June as human- like shadows, dressed in black, walking or being mounted, bearing weaponry and they go from the church of S. Charalambos to Frangkokastello, and they disappear in the sea. They walk one behind the other, when there is no wind and high humidity occurs.

It is supposed that many people bared witness of this phenomenon, from time to time. According to some theories, it is caused by a mirage due to diathlasis of the sun rays with the humiditated atmosphere of the morning breeze. The locals believe that the Drosoulites appear only in morning breeze, (hence their name, from the greek drosia: morning breeze) and they never have bothered anyone.

Appears: It is been said, that in 1890 Turkish troops, when they were in Frangokastello, left in panic when they saw Drosoulites. Many years later, when the Germans had conquered Crete, a military patrol (or unit) thought them as rebels and started shooting at them, without of course hitting someone. The shadows do not appear every year, and several years might pass without any seeing.

If you are a history lover, the castle of Frangokastello is the ideal place for your dreams’ wedding.