The fortification works conducted by the Venetians in the city of Heraklion also included defensive works at the port. Two fortresses were built at the end of each pier, however only the largest one, the so-called Koules, survives today.
Back then, it was called Rocca al Mare (= fortress by the sea).
The Koules was built between 1523 and 1540. It is one of the best preserved castles of Crete, perched on a small natural elevation where the ruins of an earlier fortress were to be found. It is a massive construction, and has 26 chambers on the ground level, situated along a central wide corridor. These rooms were used as living quarters and storage rooms in the Venetian years.
In the Turkish occupation period, the Koules was used as a prison for the revolutionaries.
A ramp leads to the second level of the fortress, a location where embrasures and cannon ports were built.
Up until a few years ago, art exhibitions were hosted in the ground floor rooms, while concerts and theatrical performances were held in an appropriately shaped space on the second, open-air level.
Marble bas-reliefsdepicting winged lions, the symbol of the Venetian rule, were incorporated into the western and the eastern aspects of the fortress, at a prominent position.
The fortress nowadays is open for the public from 8am until 3pm.
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