The Venetian Walls of Heraklion

During the Venetian occupation arts flourished and «Candia», as the city was named by the Venetians, became the center of literature and arts. Many intellectuals and artists found refuge in Candia after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The Venetians started the construction of the city’s fortification on 1462 and they needed more than a century to complete it. The walls had a total length of over 4 kilometers. They had a triangular shape and 7 bastions. The Venetians also built the port and many other buildings of magnificent architecture.

The strategic importance of the fortification was proved during the city’s investment. The city’s investment by the Turks lasted 21 years and was one of the longest in history.

The Venetian walls still surround a part of Heraklion; it is an impressive huge construction of the 15th century, with several later interventions and expansions.

The grounds of the Venetian Walls of Heraklion that are saved to date constitute one of the more important monuments of his type in entire the Mediterranean basin. This is valid because the length of the wall and its very good state of preservation. Today the walls delimit the old city of Heraklion leading to Eastern in the imposing marine fortress of Coule, which is an important monument of period of Venetian domination.

When the Arabs occupied Crete they organised a important built-up centre (824 – 961 A.D.) that was called Chandakas, in the place of current Heraklion and surrounded it with wall, built from bricks and founded in stone.

The Byzantines of Nikiforos Fokas (961 – 1204 A.D.) took over the island. They erect their own fortifying grounds over that stone groundwork that had been rescued in order to protect the city.

Venetians occupied the city in the 1211 and named it Candia. Candia develops in the more important centre political, military, intellectual and commercial life of Island, with palace for the duke, palaces for the noble settlers, temples for the religious population and many buildings that characterized a proportional city of Kingdom of Venice.

In 1462 they realised that the existing walls of the city would not be able to protect the city when Turks would reach it and start their efforts to occupy it. Thus they began the planning and the reconstruction of new fortress grounds of (which is rescued up to today and surrounds the old city) that would include the city with the suburbs that then had been created by then. The new wall was built by engineers sent from Venice; the most important and famous was the military engineer, Michele Sanmicheli. The planning and the manufacture of new fortification of Candia was done in various phases and kept almost two centuries.

The new walls, that have form of triangle with base in the sea, have perimeter roughly 5 kilometres. The fortification supplemented a ditch without water and bastions. There were seven bastions (east to west) Sampionara (that was re built from Turks), Bitouri, Jesus, Martinegko, Bethlehem, Pantocrator and St. Andrea (was re built from Turks too).

The coastal department of walls was manufactured and abutted on the existing rocky coast. To the Eastern side the wall led to the big fortress that protected the harbour, called “Castello del Molo” (Coule).

The gates of Venetian fortification that are saved up to our days constitute important architectural monuments of period of Venetian domination and served connecting the city with the suburbs and the countryside.

The gate of St. George was at the East of the city was demolished in 1917. The gate Jesus is at the South, the gate of Pantocrator (known and as gate of Chanias) was at the West.

In addition to these main gates there were also secondary once which were used by the military or to facilitate the entrance/ exit of the people to/from the city. One of those was Bethlehem gate and its bastions.

Two out of the four gates of the wall do survive today: the Pantocrator or «Chanioporta» (meaning «the gate of Chania») and the «gate of Jesus» also called «Kainourgia Porta» (meaning «the new gate»).

Jesus Bastion
Jesus Bastion - Kainourgia Porta

Presently you we can walk on the top of the wall which is very wide as you can see at the pictures above. There are parking places, a football field of a local team (Ergotelis) and the tomb of N. Kazantzakis a great Greek philosopher and writer that is very well known globally.

Please visit the blog’s page «Walking on the Venetian Wall of Heraklion» to see photos taken recently.


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