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Koules Fortress

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Title: Koules Fortress  
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Subject: Heraklion, Kingdom of Candia, List of castles in Greece, Cretan cuisine, Marquisate of Bodonitsa
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Koules Fortress

Part of the fortifications of Heraklion
Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Map of Candia (modern Heraklion) with Koules circled
Type Fort
Area 3,600 m2 (39,000 sq ft)
Site information
Open to
the public
Condition Intact
Site history
Built 1523–1540
Built by Republic of Venice
Battles/wars Siege of Candia

The Koules (Greek: Κουλές, from Turkish: Kule, "Tower, Fort"), originally known as Rocca a Mare or Castello a Mare, is a fortress located at the entrance of the old port of Heraklion, Crete, Greece. It was built by the Republic of Venice in the early 16th century, and is still in good condition today.


The site of Koules was possibly first fortified by the Arabs in the 9th or 10th centuries. By the [2]

In 1462, the Venetian Senate approved a programme to improve the fortifications of Candia. Eventually, the Byzantine tower was demolished in 1523, and the Koules began to be built instead. Old ships were filled with stone, and were sunk to form a breakwater and increase the area of the platform on which the fortress was built. The fortress was completed in 1540.[1]

In 1630, the fort was armed with 18 cannons on the ground floor, and 25 cannons on the pathway leading to the roof.[2]

During the 21-year long Siege of Candia, Ottoman batteries easily neutralized the fort's firepower. The Ottomans eventually took the fort in 1669, after the Venetians surrendered the entire city. They did not make any major alterations to the fort, except for the additions of some battlements and embrasures. They built a small fort known as Little Koules on the landward side, but this was demolished in 1936 while the city was being modernized.[1]

The fortress has been restored, and it is now open to the public.[2] Art exhibitions and cultural activities are occasionally held at the fort.[1]


The fortress is made up of two parts: a high rectangular section, and a slightly lower semi-elliptical section. Its walls are up to 8.7m thick at some places, and it has three entrances. The fort has two stories, with a total of 26 rooms, which were originally used as barracks, a prison, storage rooms, a water reservoir, a church, a mill and a bakery.[2]

A lighthouse tower is located on the northern part of the fort.[3]


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