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Paleochora Fort (Castel Selino)

  • Paleochora Fort (Castel Selino)


About Paleochora Fort (Castel Selino)

There were only a few fortresses constructed by the Venetians along Crete’s southern coast, likely due to the scarcity of ports and bays in that area. One such fortress was Selino, located at what is now Paleochora. Built on a peninsula, this fort was designed to assert Venetian control over the region, which was home to numerous rebels.

Resembling the fortresses of Mirabelo and Kales at Ierapetra, Selino was almost square in shape and featured two towers, one on its north side and one on its south. As with other Venetian fortresses, it housed quarters, official residences, a small chapel, and water tanks. The purpose of the two towers was to monitor the bays formed to the east and west. Remnants of these towers can still be seen today.

During the 1272 Chortatzis revolution, the first significant uprising against the Venetians, Selino remained “boiling” even after the revolt had been suppressed elsewhere in Crete. In response, Marino Gradonigo, the Duke of Crete, ordered the construction of Castel Selino in 1282. Despite this, the rebels managed to capture and destroy the fort, prompting the Venetians to rebuild it in 1334. A small settlement, or bourg, soon developed around the castle, eventually evolving into the modern town of Paleochora. The name Selino, meaning celery in Greek, likely comes from the abundance of the plant in the area, and it continues to be used as the name of the province today.

Over time, the settlement was abandoned, and the fort fell into ruin. By 1866, Paleochora was known as a coastal village with a harbor, which was necessary for trade with various markets via sea. Transporting goods like olive oil, carobs, and grain through the rugged White Mountains to Chania town was impossible, making a functional harbor essential. During the 1332 Revolution, Vardis Kallergis seized the fort, killing castellan Ermolao Velenio, his family, and the entire garrison. In 1539, pirate Barbarossa forced Selino’s garrison to hide in the water tank. By 1583, the fort housed 261 residents.

Though the fort was later restored, it never regained its original significance and was soon abandoned due to earthquake and rain damage. In 1595, the Venetian governor of Chania, Benetto Dolfin, oversaw the fort’s restoration. Eight years after the Ottomans captured Chania in 1653, they besieged Selino by land and sea until the garrison surrendered. The fort was then torn down and later rebuilt, with only a few ruins from the Turkish period remaining today.

Near Vlithias village and close to Paleochora, visitors can still find the ruins of an ancient fort called Mnimio on a hill. Originally believed to be an ancient tomb, researchers now think it was a fort with Cyclopean walls and a circular worship sanctuary inside.

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  • Fortress

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