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The Castle ( Fort ) of Chios

Description

The Castle of Chios town expands in a 180.000 square metres area and it's walls enclose a residential complex of 650 inhabitants. Settlement in Castle's area is testified at least since the hellenistic times. Excavation finds confirm its continuation during Roman and early Byzantine times. Temples from the middle Byzantine era are testified in sources and written context ( 10th century ) and  by excavational findings ( 11th century ).
Nowadays the Castle of Chios is identified as the familiar, according to written sources, Fort which begun to be built in 1328 by the Genoese ruler of Chios Martono Zaccaria. In 1329 the castle was occupied on behalf of the Byzantine Emperor Andronickos Paleologos III and remained as Byzantine territory up until 1346, when Chios had been definetely acquired by the Republic of Genoa. The Genoese ruling lasted for two centuries from 1346 until 1566. During the medieval times the Castle ( Civitas Chii ) was the centre of political and military command of Chios. Outside the walls was extending the city, the borgo. Back then, the command of the island belonged at a commercial firm, the Maona, members of which since 1362 and on, belonged to the family ( Albergo ) of Ioustiniani in Genoa.

In 1566 Ali Pasa commander captured the Castle without a fight on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan Souleiman the Magnificent. In 1694 it was recaptured for a six month period by the Venetians, who have carried out extensive upgrades at the fortification despite their short ruling period. Since then, the castle remained uninterruptedly into the hands of the Ottommans up until 1922, when Chios island was liberated and thus joined the Greek State.

The Greek State took measures of protection for the monument since 1924 and with a presidential order in the October of the same year, the castle was characterized as preservable archaeological and historical space. Despite those measures, castle faced serious threats during the 20th century, when a part of the Chian society demanded it's demolition, a request that revived in times, during the decade of 1930's initially but also after during the decades of the 50's and the 70's. Defining for the devaluation and poor conservation status of the monument, during the modern times were the natural disasters and especialy the catastrophic earthquake of 1881 and 1949, the construction of the new main dock of Chios town in 1896 that drastically altered the inscribed wall, the massive installation of the Greek refugees who fled to Chios after the Minor Asia tragedy in 1922 and the German occupation, when the bastions and building materials of the Castle were used to grind the grain. Moreover, after the liberation of Chios by the Ottoman ruling in 1912, the walls were systimatically abused, two bastions were partially destroyed, the western gate ( upper portello ) and also parts of the seaside wall were worn out due to explosives usage.

It's walls, terrestrial and also those that are facing the sea, form an abnormal pentagon. Nine towers of different architecture, accordingly to the period that each one was built, dominate along the walls ( eight out of nine, some of them in very good condition ). Part of the east side of the Wall is not saved until today.

The terraced walls were surrounded by a trench, forming an artificial island and thus contributing to the better defense of the Castle.Nowadays the trench is drained and embalmed.

The castle of Chios used to have three entrances, the main entrance, the so-called Porta Maggiore, the west gate ( upper Portello ) and the sea gate ( Porta di Marina ), which today is not been saved.

The main entrance of the castle is the monumental southern gate (Porta Maggiore), which is protected by a circular tower in the right, decorated with representations, moulding and symmetrical fins. A great inscription with Sain Marc's lion and the name of the duke Silvestro Valerio, which can hardly be discerned today especially due to the pounding by the Ottomans, indicate the attempt of the Venetians for the the reconstruction of the gate after 1694.

After the arched vault below, following, pops up the palace of Ioustiniani, a building of the 15th century, that was recently rennovated and is currently used as an exhibition space of early Christian mosaics, Byzantine frescoes, post-Byzantine icons and wood carvings. In thew same premises can be found the ''Dark Prison'' in which seventy Chionians squirearchy were imprisoned alongside the Arch Bishop Platonas, before they were executed in the 23d of April 1822. The monument is a square hall (10x8,5m) housed with four sharp-pointed crossdomes.

At the central street of the castle rises the Bairakli mosque and the temple of St George ( once Eski mosque ).Further, at the north corner of the castle, we come forward to a complex of Ottoman baths built in 18th century with spherical domes, alongside with the circular tower of Zeno with it's defensive infrastructure, a work of the Venetians from 1694. The ruins of the seaside fort preserve elements of the Genoese period.

The entrance towards the port of Chios, was controlled by the small fort Mpourtzi, which unfortunately today is not being saved. Other sites of interest within the castle are the ''Cold Fountain'', a semi-basement tank with Byzantine phrases, the Ottoman cemetery with tombs of Ottoman generals and admirals and the Turkish tower of Koulas, built entirely of ancient building material.

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Characteristics

Access: Car, Motorcycle
People with disabilities: With friendly access
Distance from the city: 0-10km
Shops in the area: with shops in the area

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