Castle of Chora, Kythera

This is the most famous monument of the island. It is also called "Fortezza" and was built in the 13th century when the island was dominated by the Venetians. The castle was also known as the “eye of Crete" due to its strategic position. Someone watching the sea from the castle could notice boats or enemy ships in three places simultaneously: the Ionian Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Cretan Sea. The castle was built in different phases of the history of the island, but the biggest and most important part of the facade was built in 1503 by the Venetians. At the entrance of the castle you can see the tunnel also known as Fossa while on the front wall there is the lion of St. Mark, the emblem of the Venetians which was destroyed along with the nobility book and the coats of arms in 1797 by the French.

On the left side of the castle’s entrance you can see the prison and a little further up on the right of the southwest part you can see the huge Venetian reservoir with domes and arches. In the middle of the castle you will notice a few ruined houses because 200 years ago there were 200 inhabitants in the castle, the last one left during the German occupation when the conquerors commandeered the buildings and settled there. If you walk further, you will arrive in front of the gunpowder warehouse which is a building with walls more than one meter thick. Right next to it you will see the church of Pantokratoras, well-known for its old wall paintings. The castle’s old headquarters are located in front of the church; a building that now houses the Historical Archive of Kythira. If you walk through the big tunnel underneath the headquarters you will reach the headquarters square with the big 16th century church - originally the Catholic "Our Lady of the Latins”. In 1806 the church was inaugurated as orthodox in the honor of Mirtidiotissa. Next to it you will see the church of “Panaghia Orfani” which housed the icon and heirlooms of Agarathos monastery in Heraklion for 300 years after Crete was dominated by the Turks. The church of Mirtidiotissa also housed the icon in the times of the pirate raids until 1842 when the icon was returned to the monastery of Mirtidia. In 1844 a copy was left in the castle instead.

Outside the fortress there is a second wall to the north. There are several cannons in the castle, dating from the Venetian, the Russo-Turkish and the English period. Two of Mirtidiotissa’s miracles are associated with the castle: One has to do with the ship from Crete that carried the precious metal for the icon’s structure and was threatened by pirates. The second is about the lightning that struck the castle in 1829 right in front of the icon and the adjacent gunpowder warehouse without causing any damage.