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Assos

38°22'40.6"N+20°32'09.2"E

Assos is a fishing village nestled at the root of a peninsula, the summit of which is crowned by a 16th century Venetian fortress. To access it, the road which overlooks the sea runs alongside ancient low walls once used for growing vines. Assos then appears, a small flowered port overlooking creeks where peasants sell delicious thyme honey.
The fortress was built by the Venetians at the end of the 16th century to protect the inhabitants from pirates and Turks. It served as a prison until 1953.
Today, the ruined fortress reveals nothing of its former splendor.
The visitor will be able to see the city walls and the residence of the steward of Venice. Parts of the barracks are also preserved as well as the Church of Saint Marc (known as the French Catholic Church built in 1604).
The dome shape of the entrance to the castle which has been preserved in good condition is impressive.
The fortress originally had four gates. The two larger ones are still standing and two smaller ones are in ruins. Note the Lion of Venice visible on the arch of the front door.

History of the fortress

In 1584 the inhabitants of the island sent petitions to the Senate of Venice to demand the construction of a new fortress because the Fortress of St. George could not protect the whole of the island.

This coincided with ambitious plans to protect the eastern territories by Venice which intended to found a city in the castle and wished to transfer the administration of the island to Assos.

Thus the construction of this fortress began in 1593 under the supervision of Ambrosius Cornelius, as indicated by the inscription outside the main entrance gate.

The fortress is the largest castle on the island and one of the largest in Greece with its 2000 meters of surrounding walls which follow the relief of the land and form an irregular rectangle reinforced by 5 bastions.

Assos remained a small village near its small port which could accommodate 4 galleys.

Islanders near the fortress were reluctant to relocate to the interior of the fortress. Although built on an impregnable peninsula, its position made its supply easy to cut in case of an invasion. Initial plans were scaled back and Assos only became the capital of the northern part of the island.

The castle's major problem was its water supply as there is no natural spring nearby, so large reservoirs were built

The fortress was the seat of the Venetian nobility and it housed the island's Greek cathedral and also a hospital. It lost its importance when Lefkada became a Venetian possession in 1684. Administration of the region was however maintained in Assos until the end of the Venetian possession in 1797.

After the war and until 1953 the fortress was used as an agricultural prison and received political prisoners who made terraces for vineyards and grain crops. The last inhabitants lived within the walls of the castle until the end of the sixties.

In 1953, during the earthquake, funds were sent by France to help rebuild the village: as a thank you, the main square is called "place des parisiens", and a plaque in French and Greek on this square can be read.

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