Venetian Walls of Heraklion

Venetian Walls and Gates of Heraklion

Many centuries ago, Heraklion was considered so important to its Venetian occupiers that they built a set of walls strong enough to withstand a siege that lasted a staggering 21 years and cost the lives of many, many fighters on both sides: Venetians and Cretans on one side, and Turks on the other.

Heraklion walls are more than four and a half kilometers in length, and everywhere wide and strongly built in a triangular shape, it encompasses what we might call ‘Old Heraklion’ in a series of straight lines between its original seven ‘bastions’, or individual forts, and five gates, with the sea as its base.

I am no historian and can only provide a few facts. For a much more detailed account of the history, I recommend a visit to the Historical Museum of Heraklion. This way, you will have an idea of the ferocity of battle that gunpowder, grenades, and cannon brought to test the strength of the walls, and of the determination shown on each side to succeed. It is said that the Turks lost 100,000 fighters, to the defenders 30,000. It is true to say that the fighting was savage, and was recalled centuries later by an Herakliot who wrote a poem in 1941, as German soldiers seemed to be marching towards the gates, that began:
“Come on, German! These stone walls have seen more blood than you’ll ever know…”

No 01: Saint Andrew bastion

No 02: Pantocrator bastion

gate A: Chanioporta
(Chania gate)

No 03: Bethlehem bastion

gate B: Bethlehem gate, or
Komeno Bendeni

No 04: Martinengo bastion and
Kazantzakis TombNo 05: Jesus bastion

gate C: Kainouria Porta
(New Gate)

No 06: Vitouri bastion

No 07: Georgiadis Park

No 08: Eleftherias Square

gate D: Pili Agiou Georgiou
(Saint George Gate)

No 09: Sabbionara bastion

No 10: Koules fortress

heraklion walls map
Important architectural monuments of the period that still survive today are the portals (gates) for the entrance to the city and the exit of the population to the countryside. The portal of the pier and the portal of the arsenals (none of them survives today) were built for the communication with the port. The portal of St. George for the communication with the eastern parts of the city,re-opened and offered to the circulation of the pedestrians, the portal of Jesus (known as New Gate) for the communication with the south parts, is situated in the south part of the fortified enclosure and the portal of Pantocratoras (today known as the Gate of Chania) for the communication with the western parts of the city. Apart from these there were others secondary ones of military or other character as is today the reconstructed one of Bhethleem. Lastly, the gate of Dermata, approximately in the middle of the homonymous gulf (today only its exit to the city has survived) was built for the communication with the sea at this area.
 Article by Louis Tracy.
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