The most impressive vestige of the long lasting Venetian presence in
Candia is the large- scale fortification which stands still almost intact, enfolding
the old town. The decision for the construction was made in 1462, but the next one hundred years were spent in
designs, according to the requirements of the new
bastioned defensive system, and in
constant rescheduling due to the inability of Venice
to effectively finance the construction. The realization of the ambitious project,
which was intensified from 1562 onwards, went through many adventures, employed
many generations of engineers and dignitaries, hundreds of craftsmen and an
endless number of workers, it was repeatedly altered, it was interrupted a
dozen of times due to financial deficiency and in fact it didn’t stopped to be
improved and competed until the fall of Candia to the Ottomans in 1669. The
numerous emblems of Venice, the coats of arms of the Venetian dignitaries and
the votive inscriptions testify beyond any doubt the subsequent phases of
construction, together with the documentation of the Venetian State Archives.
The famous Veronese architect Michele Sanmicheli played a key role to the design (1538-1539). But the person who practically gave to the enceinte its final aspect was the expert on fortifications and later a proveditore generale (governor) Giulio Savorgnan, which dealt with the project between 1562 and 1566. The general plan of the fortification is strictly geometrical, in the form of a polygon. The base of the polygon coincides with the coastline. In the angles of the polygon are situated seven bastions; two are on the sea shore, the Sabbionara (of the sand) bastion to the E and the Bastion of St. Andrew to the West; five are in the mainland, from E to W the Bastions Vitturi, Jesu, Martinengo, Bethleem and Panigra (Pantokrator). The inland bastions are heart-shaped; they are connected to the enceinte with necks (gole), on each side of which there are lower terraces (piazze basse) for the heavy canons, which consisted the main gun power of the fortress. Around the enceinte there was a large and deep dry moat with an almost vertical outer slope, which was held by masonry. The excavation of the moat helped the erection of the walls, since the amount of soil that was excavated was used to create the large embankment which surrounded the city like a uniform hill. This embankment from the inside had the form of a regular slope, but from the outside it was held by a strong, steeply inclined masonry (scarpa). Over this inclined walling there was a vertical parapet (parapetto), divided from the inclined part with a molding (cordone).
The design of the fortification was arduous but ingenious. The narrow dry moat prohibited the full development of the enemy troops, which, in all cases, were driven into the range of the canons on the bastion necks. At some of the bastions a rampart was added to improve their defensive capability. A series of outer fortresses situated at the opposite bank of the moat aimed to offer extra protection to the bastions.
Despite the repeated attacks and the merciless bombarding during the 21 years of the Ottoman siege -the longest siege in human history- the fortification of Candia survived to our days almost intact, with only minor interventions during the Ottoman occupation. It stands proudly, against all modern treachery and mistreatment, an internal symbol of human ingenuity, courage, resistance and will for freedom.
|4. The fortifications of Candia
|4.1 The older enceinte of Candia
|4.2.1 The Bastions
|4.2.2. The Gates of Candia
|4.2.3 The coats of arms and the emblems
|4.3 The fortification walls through the centuries