FRANGOKASTELLO

 

Situated about 11km east of Hora Sfakion stands the old Castel Franco. Frangokastello as it is referred today, is just another testament to the Venetians desire to impose their rule, as the castle was never used by them at least. Built by the Venetians originally in 1371, in an attempt to deter pirates, at a time when fleets of these buccaneers pillaged and ransacked towns and villages all around the Mediterranean. There was a great need it was thought to build a fort here on the beach. Also it imposed some order on Sfakia because of the constant revolts by the Cretan rebels. The Venetian coat of arms still adorns the walls, This sturdy and impressive looking fortress is only now a mere shell of its former glory. Nothing but the bare walls and massive rectangular keep reinforced at the corners by square towers survive. Gradually through lack of use by the Venetian and because of its isolated position it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was another 450 years before there was an actual battle that took place here, resulting in a blood drenched history in the struggle for freedom against the Turks.

 

The battle of Frangokastello took place during the War of Independence in 1828 against the Turks, a Greek army leader named Hitzi Michalis Dalianis came to Crete with a force of 600 infantry and 70 horsemen to free Crete. The Turkish leader Mustapha Pasha, besieged the castle with over 8,000 men, for seven days. During the siege Dalianis himself and 350 of his troops died. 

 

The heroic locals, closed in on the Turkish army from behind and Mustapha Pasha, feeling threatened, retreated with his men allowing the remaining troops of Dalianis to leave the castle unharmed. However, after they had left he destroyed a large part of the castle then proceeded towards the northeast. But the local crafty Sfakians waited in the gorges and slaughtered both Mustapha Pasha and his army.

 

As with every castle there are legends and Frangokastello is no exception. The locals claim that every year on May 17th, the anniversary of the bloody battle of Frangokastello. When dawn breaks, they see a long procession of shadowy figures some walking, others on horseback, all dressed in black, with their weapons shining under the morning sun, marching from the ruined church of Ayios Haralambos and advancing towards the fort. 

 

They reach the sea and disappear into it, with the first rays of the sun. They are called 'Drosoulites' or dewy ones because they appear in the mists. They are believed to be the heroic Dalianis and his troops that died in the battle. This apparition of the 'Drosoulites' has been well documented over the ages. In 1890 a passing Turkish army saw the images of these lost rebel souls and fired at them. Even during World War ll, a German patrol opened fire on these ghosts in an attempt to kill them thinking they were the enemy. Ironically if this legend is true - they were.

 

The abandoned monastery of Ayios Haralambos with its pretty church and cemetery used to be one of the only buildings on the whole plain of Frangokastello, apart from the castle of course prior to 1970.

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 More Round the Island pages
: Beaches - Western Crete : Apokoronas : Hania Town : Kournas Lake : Aptera :
: Frangokastello : Gramvousa : Spinalonga : Monasteries
: Phaestos : Gortys : Knossos:

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