The Venetian fortress of Siteia was constructed in the 13th century in the position of the byzantine city, which was the seat of a bishopric. Possibly this was also the position of the ancient city Iteia or Siteia. As seen in the Venetian plans, the eastern part of the modern city of Siteia was fortified and was called the “Castello”.
It had a triangular form and enclosed the cathedral and the residence of the rector. On the top of the triangle was the tower with its enclosure. The neighbourhoods outside the walls (borghi) were developed west of the fortification enclosure and remained unfortified until the end. East of the enclosure was the women’s monastery of Santa Maria, appoximately at the position of today’s cemetary.
After the earthquake of 1303, the fortress and the tower were severely damaged and the repairs made later could not strengthen it. A new major destruction was caused by the earthquake of 1508, and in 1538, the raid of the pirates of Barbarossa, caused more destructions to happen.
In the middle of the 16th century, when Venice constructed large-scale fortification works in its conquered areas, applying the new bastion system, Siteia was actually unfortified. The Venetian administration in 1554 sent money for the restoration of the fortress. In the following years, despite the demolition recommendation made by Sforza Pallavicini and Giulio Savorgnan in 1571 to the Senate, the Venetians tried to restore it with some works, but was still ready to collapse.
After the turkish invasion of 1645 and the “parade” to the east, general Mocenigo finds out that the fortress was completely vulnerable to a siege and in 1651 he decided to demolish it and transfer the cannons and the equipment to Khandax.
After its occupation the fortress was used by the Turks as a fortification, with serious interventions to the ruined venetian complex. The turkish fortress was constructed on the base of the higher venetial tower and it is connected with the small remaining part of the enclosure. The wall on the sides of the triangle, large parts of which were preserved in the beginning of the century, has almost disappeared today, with the exemption of the wall on the side of the sea.
The fortress in its present form consists of the northeastern part of the initial fortification enclosure, the tower that closes its top and rooms in the area of the enclosure. The tower, without a roof today, had the form it took during the ottoman rule. There are traces of an internal perimetric corridor and of a central two-storey part. The exact type of the roof remains unclear.
The fortress was used for many years by the Civil Aviation Authority, until 1966. Inside it there were sheds and and added buildings.
In 1963 it was declared as a preservable monument. In 1966 efforts for its restoration started and the first consolidation works began. After 1970 the sheds were removed. Today it is a visitable guarded monument, and in the summer months it is used as an events area.
(Author: Daphne Chronaki, architect)