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The Fortezza

 
  Fortezza Rethymnon (Rethymno) - Main EntranceThe 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 1590. 

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. 

Over the 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. Fortezza Rethymnon (Rethymno) - West ViewThe 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 monument. 

The Fortezza also houses several impressive remains from the Venetian era.  These include the remains of guardhouses, barracks, arsenals and water cisterns.