magnificent Fortezza which dominates the town is said to be one
of the largest Venetian castles ever built. Building work
on the Fortezza started in 1573 in response to ever increasing
number of raids by Turkish pirates. After many
modifications, work on the fortress was finally completed in
The total length of the walls is about 1300m and
there are four bastions, three on the South side and one on the
East side. The main entrance gate is at the East side and
there are two other gates, one at the West side and one at the
North side which could only be accessed by sea.
years the walls of the Fortezza became weakened by successive
Turkish attacks. In 1646 during the fifth Venetian-Turkish
war, the troops of Huseyin Pas besieged the city for 22 days. The local population and Venetian soldiers sought refuge in the
Fortezza, but were finally forced to negotiate surrender to the
Turks on November 13th.
The Venetians constructed a new cathedral for Rethymnon -
dedicated to St. Nicholas - within the Fortezza grounds.
During the Turkish occupation the cathedral was destroyed and a
mosque built in its place.
In recent years the mosque has
undergone extensive restoration work and visitors may now admire
the fabulous dome in all its glory. The juxtaposition of
the mosque within the grounds of a Venetian castle is one of the
features of the site that makes the Fortezza so distinctive as a
The Fortezza also houses several impressive
remains from the Venetian era. These include the remains
of guardhouses, barracks, arsenals and water cisterns.