The Kastro

The Fortress or Kastro of Chios, which occupies a roughly rectangular area (c. 600m x 250m) to the north of the port, was surrounded by a moat filled with water and accessible only by means of a wooden drawbridge. The crescent shaped southeast wall which formed the northern boundary of the port and against whose wharfs the Genoese maritime fleet would have tied up, lies now a little way inland: it is the least well preserved section, by comparison with the north, east and west walls which stand intact and still possess their seven fine bastions. On this site there was no pre-existing stronghold: the Byzantine fortress appears to have stood some distance inland on higher ground. These fortifications are therefore principally Genoese, begun in the 1320s by the Zaccaria overlords and given new impetus in the early 1400s by the Giustiniani; only the northern bastion (the largest of all, and known as the ‘Torrione Zeno’) was modified and enlarged by the Venetians in 1694/5 with more modern defensive technology, so as to include emplacements for their cannon—some fine examples of which can be seen in the courtyard of the city’s Byzantine Museum opposite the Public Garden.
   The main gate, or ‘Porta Maggiore’, has been given a late 17th century outer facing by the Venetians during their brief stay, surmounted by a (partially erased) inscription recording Doge Silvestro Valier; behind it is the more functional 14th century Genoese gateway leading through the thickness of the walls. It is instructive to walk along the top of the enceinte, most of which is accessible, though divided by a breach for the street in the western corner. The northwestern sector is bisected by the massive 14th century central bastion bearing an eroded, triple escutcheon in marble of the Giustiniani family. To either side of the tower, on the inside of the walls, the clustered cupolas of two sets of Ottoman baths can be seen: these were in existence in the mid 18th century when Richard Chandler, Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and member of the Dilettanti Society, sampled their pleasures on a visit to Chios in 1765; he later described the pummelling and contortions he received at the hands of the masseur of the hamam, whose ‘feats ‘¦ cannot easily be described, and are hardly credible’. The sea-wall of the castle is wellpreserved and has remained unmodified from when it was built in the 14th century; its simple masonry and construction is of a different order of building from the meticulous and aristocratic structures of the Knights of St John on Kos and on Rhodes . Set-back to the south and a little inside, the round stack of the Turkish watch-tower rises above the level of the surrounding buildings.
   The interior of the Kastro, which is still inhabited and lively, has preserved something of its former Levantine feel, with a number of the old lath-and-plaster housefronts and projecting wooden balconies still to be seen along Aghios Giorgios Frouriou Street. This is the main axial street of the Kastro, running from the main gate to the church of Aghios Giorgios. At its southern end, inside the gate and to the west side, is the Ottoman cemetery, with most of its gravestones—inscribed and surmounted with a carved turban or fez—remaining well-preserved and intact. Amongst them (towards the back) it is a surprise to find the sarcophagus, decorated with flower-motif, of Kara Ali Pasha, the perpetrator of the Massacre of Chios of 1822. A little further north, set at an angle to all the other buildings is the four-square Bayrakli Mosque, dating from the late 18th century and now deprived of its porch and minaret; the spacious prayer-hall, surmounted by a shallow dome sitting on an interesting play of squinches, is in a state of abandon although the building has recently been re-roofed. Half-way down the length of the street, on the north side is the church of Aghios Giorgios Frouriou, whose orientation and proportions betray its origins also as a converted mosque. It sits in a courtyard which was once the kulliye (‘religious complex’) of the mosque: on its northern side, under a plane-tree, is the former sebil or fountain—a fascinating assemblage of spolia which would originally have channelled the water pulled up from a well, into an ancient sarcophagus standing on two column-stumps and decorated with Ottoman designs in low relief, and thence into a stone washing-area for those preparing for prayer in the mosque.


Chios Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Chios town and the Kampos area. The Kastro.

Random information you might what to know about Chios Island
The Olimpi cave and Ancient Phanai
Nea Moni of Chios


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