Much like its archaeological sites, Rethymnon is not renowned for its wealth of fortifications. On an island boasting dozens of castles and forts, only Rethymnon’s fortezza really springs out at one. It is such a wonderful example and so beautifully situated, that it makes up for the lack of others in this nomos.
Established as a fort during the late Byzantine period, the hill where the Venetian castle now stands, had been occupied since the at least the 3rd century BC. Designed by Michel Sanmicheli in 1540, the fortifications were to take 30 years to complete. In 1558 the people of Rethymnon realised that they needed further defence against piratical raids, but the request for a fortress to be built on the hill now known as Palaiokastro, was denied by their Venetian overlords.
This allowed the corsair Ulutz Ali, to sack the town on July 7th 1571. shortly after fortification had been completed and was to lead to the Venetians rather belatedly building the fortezza we see today. The work was started in 1573, completed in 1580 and named Castel Vecchio; however, 66 years after its completion the fortress was overwhelmed by Ottoman forces who took 45 days to overwhelm the city. A treaty was signed on November the 13th 1646, and Rethymnon, like Chania had done the previous year, fell into Ottoman hands.
Photo (cover): www.cretanbeaches.com