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Koules  fortress, Heraklion Harbour
Koules fortress

On the western pier of Heraklion harbour is esconced a formidable Venetian fortress with the today name Koules. During Venetian rule it was known as Ricca a mare or Castello a mare, meaning fort of the seas. The name that finally prevailed is “Koules” from the Turkish name “Su kulesi”but was built by the Venetians. In the first years of Venetian rule it served to protect the harbour and city which was of great strategic importance in the region. The initial edifice was low, got destroyed by earthquake in 1303 and repaired.

In the beginning of the 16th century within the framework of a general planning of the fortifications of the city the old fort was pulled down and a new one built in its place-this is what remains until today. It was built during the period 1523-1540 as per the inscription on the northern wall.

This fort is in the shape of a square. The structure of which consists of strong thick walls. The width of the three sides of the exterior walls at ground level are up to 8.70m thick and the other side 6.9m thick! The interior walls have different thicknesses at various points, ranging from 1.36m to 3.00m. The roof of the ground floor is vaulted where large air vents and light wells have been constructed leading up to the dome.

The gate entrance to the fort is at the edge of the western pier and was heavily protected: three strong wooden doors were on the vaulted roof and a ramp ran down steeply. This led to the inner fort.

In 1630 there were 18 cannons on the ground floor and running up an enclosed pathway to the roof were another 25 cannons. This pathway was specifically used for dragging the cannons up and down the roof.

The north eastern, western and southern sides of the walls were decorated with marble relief pictures of the winged lion of Venice which survive until today excepting their heads. The ramparts of the fort have been restored. Most of the fire-power of the fort was concentrated on the ground floor and along the external walls there were indentations to house the cannons. Also the fort did not lack a water reservoir, a jail and various storage rooms for food and munitions. To cater for the needs of the guards and church, a mill and a bakery was provided. Naturally there were barracks for the guards and houses for the officers and Administration of the fort. The marks of longevity and wear and tear can clearly be seen on the surface of the walls. Even the structures include many amorphous and different stones betraying the successive repairs and additions carried out.

Over the passing of the years,”Koules” became the trademark of heraklion. The winged lion of St. Marks stands formidably on three marble relief plaques on the fort walls dominating this exquisite monument.

Koules Fortress Informations:


Full: €2, Reduced: €1

Free admission days

Sundays in the period between 1 November and 31 March
The first Sunday of every month, except for July, August and September
(when the first Sunday is holiday, then the second is the free admission day.)
27 September, International Tourism Day.
Free admission for:

University students from Greece and the E.U.


From 01.11.2007 to 31.03.2008
Single duty

Monday: closed
Tuesday - Sunday: 08:30 - 19:00
koules fortress
koules fortress
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Koules fortress inside