The core fortified area of Rethymno is the magnificent pentagonal fortress 'Fortezza' that stands high on a rocky spur to protect the city from unpleasant invaders.
Fortezza is one of Crete's largest Venetian fortresses, dating to the 16th century that gives a distinct medieval and Renaissance character to Rethymno. It provides panoramic views of the town and Cretan Sea, while exploring the castle takes you back in time as it holds the historical and cultural past of Rethymno. The emblematic fortress of Rethymno was built in 1573, as a need for a sufficient fortification after continuous pirate incursions, according to all the venetian fortifications of the time and designed to be able to protect the entire population of the city. Fortezza used to be the administrative and the religious centre of Rethymno. It comprises four bastionswith battlements and three entrances, with three look-out points to the north, all excellently renovated. The most important of the surviving buildings is the Ibrahim Han Mosque, which had originally been built by the Venetians as a cathedral and turned into a mosque during the Turkish occupation. During the ancient times on this hill was built the acropolis of ancient Rithymna and the temple of Artemis, not saved today. Some artifacts of that period are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno next the castle. A visit to Fortezza is deemed necessary to admire the landmark of Rethymno with the magical view, especially the sunset. During summer, it hosts several cultural events, exhibitions and concerts.
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