Spinalonga Fortress, Spinalonga, Crete Island, Greece

Spinalonga is a barren, arid rocky islet, with an area of 85,000 sq. m., lying in the mouth of the natural harbour of Elounda in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. The islet was fortified in antiquity, to protect the ancient city of Olous. Towards the end of the 16th century, the Venetians, as part of their great fortification works to defend Crete, built on Spinalonga one of the most important bastion-type seaward fortresses of the Mediterranean, designed according to the bastion system of fortification by Genese Bressani and Latino Orsini. At strategic points in the fortifications are set the Michel and Moceniga or Barbariga demilunes, major works of fortification architecture.

During the Cretan War (1645-1669), refugees sought shelter on the islet, as did rebels (“Chainides”) who used it as a base to harrass the Ottomans. Under the terms of the treaty for the surrender of Chandax (Heraklion) in 1669, Spinalonga remained a Venetian possession. In 1715, following a siege, the islet was surrendered to the Ottomans, the Venetian garrison left and the remaining 600 inhabitants were taken captive.

From 1715 onwards, Spinalonga was settled by Muslims, who built their houses on the foundations of the Venetian buildings. The village flourished after the mid-19th century, until by 1881 it housed a population of 1,112 and was the largest Muslim commercial centre of Merabello Bay.

The village houses were arranged in a stepped pattern across the west and south sides of the islet. At the end of the 19th century it is estimated that there were approximately 200 homes and 25 shops or workshops on Spinalonga. Today many well-built two-storey houses and shops remain; their morphology and symmetrical proportions are indicative of the principles of local and Balkan architectural tradition

 

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