The name Kazarma is derived from the Venetian Casa di Arma, which means barracks or armoury. Indeed, these were the barracks of the Venetian garrison, the army headquarters of the fortified town of Sitia. The walls of Sitia, which reached as high uphill as the fortress, were built at the same time as the Kazarma, in the late Byzantine years.
However, several earthquakes, the revolts of the locals against the Venetians and the raids of Barbarossa caused extensive damage to the walls and the fortress itself. The walls were demolished at some point by the Venetians; they had intended to rebuild them but never did. In the end, the Venetians abandoned the town in 1651 and destroyed what they could so that it wouldn’t be used by the Turks. Fortunately, the Kazarma had a better fate; the Turks restored it and even made some additions to the construction, which are still visible today. The domed lookout outposts on the battlements of the fortress are a typical example of these additions.
Two stairways lead to the main, arched entrance, from where one enters a spacious courtyard. There is a keep that sits solidly on the other side of the courtyard, across the entrance, and two uneven platforms with steps lead to its entrance. A building with three rooms is located at the east side of the keep, while on the west side one can see the remains of a smaller room which may have been a kitchen. The Kazarma Fortress is well worth visiting, for both those who would like to visualize how the town was in the Medieval years and those who wish to enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the town and the bay of Sitia. In summer, there is an additional reason why one could take the steep road up to the fortress.
The Kazarma is one of the venues that host the cultural festival of Kornaria, with events such as concerts, art exhibitions, and theatrical performances. The Kazarma Fortress used to be the main venue that housed the festival, however, nowadays it is seldom used as such, due to restrictions by the local Department of Archaeology.