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The Venetian Castro in the chora

The harbour town of Naxos, Chora, is crowned by the Venetian Castro, which covers a rather small area, but (according to the Naxos guide from Müller-Verlag) it is the only Venetian castle outside Italy that was never destroyed or conquered. To the area of the Castro belong several interesting churches, including the Catholic metropolis, but also several museums: the important Archaeological Museum of Naxos and the Venetian Museum, which also is well worth visiting, and a collection of Byzantine antiquities (in the Crispi Tower). Some of the houses in the Castro are even today inhabited by descendants of the Venetian aristocratic families.

the Chora with the Venetian Castro seen from the harbour

The Venetian Castro is small, but rather well preserved; some of its houses are still inhabited.

The Castro was built by the Venetian Marco Sanudo, who settled here after conquering the island following the 4th Crusade in 1207. Originally, it had a strong defence wall topped by 12 towers, of which only one remains today. Later, the defence wall was demolished and the houses were built so that their outer walls directly formed the fortification. There were only three well-fortified entrances to the fort, two of which are preserved today, the main gate in the north-west (“Traní Pórta”) and a gate in the south-west (“Parapórti”).

Local granite stones were used for the construction of the Castro, as well as marble blocks from the Apollon temple on the “Palace island” and maybe from an ancient acropolis that was located on the hill of the Castro itself. A Greek settlement grew around the Castro, the older northern part of which (Burgos) was also fortified with a fortified outer wall, and had only three narrow entrances and small, winding alleyways, impeding the access to the Castro in case of attacks. Catholic families settled within the Castro itself and were allowed to build their manor houses there if they followed the general building plan for the fortified houses.

the Castro from the north

Only one of the defense towers still exists.

the tower of Crispi

The main entrance, the “Traní Pórta” (roughly = “the mighty door”), is located in the north-west. A vertical carved line can be seen on the marble post on the right-hand side. This is the length of the Venetian ell: only traders whose ell matched this line were allowed into the Castro.

in the Castro

The largest building in the Castro, now derelict, is the old palace of Marko Sanudo. You can see the marble stones from the Temple of Apollo used in the masonry.

the Catholic metropolis, an important Catholic monument in the Aegean region

On the left the remains of the palace; next to it in the background the Catholic metropolis

The Archaeological Museum is worth a visit for anyone interested in history. The building formerly housed the French Trade School, which opened at the end of the 19th century. Nikos Kazantsakis, the author of the book “Alexis Zorbas”, was a student here for a year. Previously, the building belonged to the Jesuit order, which came to Naxos in 1627 and also operated a (Latin) school.

Venetian coat of arms above the entrance to the Venetian Museum, built in 1704 as the manor house of the family Della Rocca

the narrow entrance in the Southwest, the “Parapórti”

Today, the outer walls of the houses form the wall of the Castro; originally there was a separate, heavily fortified defence wall. Former defence towers (square) can be seen to the right and left.

the Castro from the Northeast

continue: The Venetian fortress Apano Kastro

back: Fortresses and towers

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