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Frangokastello

(Greek: Φραγκοκάστελλο) is a Venetian fortress after which the area is named. It is located on the south coast of Crete, 12 km from Choras Sfakion, in the district of Chania. The fortress was built by the Venetians 1371-74 to protect the coast from pirate attacks.

Originally the fort was named after St. Nikitas, as well as the church Agios Nikitas, 350m east of the fortress, is dedicated to this saint. Soon, however, the name “Frankenkastell” became common among the native Greeks, according to the common name of the Western Europeans, including the Venetians, in the Middle Ages as “Franks”. The local story tells that construction was difficult because the locals led by the Pazi brothers destroyed at night what was created by the Venetian construction workers and soldiers during the day. The Venetians demanded more builders and the Pazi brothers were hauled down and hanged.

The fort has a rectangular shape with a tower in each corner, of which the crenellated outer walls still stand today.
The coat of arms of the Venetian builders, the St. Mark’s Lion, is still well preserved on the south portal of the fortress. Inside, however, only the foundations of the plant are recognizable that were built during the Turkish occupation.

In 1770 in Frangokastello the leader of the Cretan insurgents Ioannis Vlachos, known as Daskalogiannis was captured by Ottoman soldiers. He was executed on 17 June in Heraklion.

In May 1828 Frangokastello was the scene of a struggle between insurgent Greeks under their leader Chatzmichalis Dalianis and the Ottoman soldiers. The Dalianis native from Epirus tried to transfer the Greek fight for independence from the mainland to Crete.

The raiders occupied the fort in early March 1828, but were defeated in the battle of 18 May 1828 by the Ottomans. According to local tradition, in the period around the anniversary of the battle at dawn, the shadows of Cretans killed in the castle return to the scene of the event.

They are called Drossoulites (Greek: Δροσουλίτες), and may be explained as a special meteorological phenomenon, which occurs preferably in late spring, late May-early June, in the plain of Frangokastello.

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