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The Venetian Castle

Situated at the top of an overgrown hill, at Bohali, some 3 kilometers northern to the town of Zakynthos, the Venetian fortress was built on the ruins of Psofida, the ancient acropolis of the island. The imposing fortification, that stands up to now, almost intact from time, earthquakes and other damages, was completed by the Venetians in 1646, as they had suffered extensive damages from previous earthquakes. Today, the castle and the area around, full of pine trees offers to the visitor a wonderful view of the town of Zakynthos, especially after dark, when the lights of the town at the feet of the hill form a fantastic landscape.

The castle was constructed taking into account all innovations and development in fortification; the task was carried out by well known Venetian engineers of the period and local expert craftsmen, while the material used was of the best quality and the most resistant possible. The main outer gate of the castle is decorated by the well-known Venetian regalia: the winged lions of St. Marc. It was during this period that the Venetians constructed the stone paved street from the castle down to the coast, the famous Strada Giustiniana, or “Sartzada” as the locals used to call it in more recent times.
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The castle, “Terra” as the locals used to call it, was the administrative center of the island throughout the Venetian period. It is here that was found the seat and residence of the Venetian “Proveditor” and other officials, as well as of the local Council of the Nobles.

After Britain took possession of the island in 1812, the new dominants had also taken care of the fortress; they repaired both the walls and the main buildings within the castle, they built new ones and they provided for a water supply system.

During the 1970s’ the walls were partly restored by the Greek Archaeological Service, which also carried out excavations during the 1980s’. The excavations brought to light a lot of buildings of all periods, from antiquity up to the times of the British domination, which clearly evidenced for a continuous use of the place since prehistoric times.

The most important of those buildings are the Byzantine church of Sotiras (or Pantocratoras, or San Salvatore or Domo), dated in the 12 th century; the church of Aghios Frangiskos (St. Francis) is a three-aisled Basilica of the 14 th century; the single-aisled basilica of Aghia Varvara (Santa Barbara), the church of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos (St. John the Baptist), the church of “Panaghia Laurentena” (Holy Virgin) and the church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos (St. John the Theologian) are all dated in the 15 th century.

It is also worth mentioning the buildings of the Venetian prisons, the powder keg, the British officials’ ground, the British barracks and the British government house, which also served as military quarters.

Access to the castle is possible by bus, by taxi or by rented and private car and motorbikes.
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