Castles of Greece


Agios Thomas, Gortyna, Herakleion,Crete

Melissa fortress

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Melissa fortress
3.5 km NW from the village of Agios Thomas in Heraclion area, Crete
Region > Prefecture:   Greek Map
Municipality > Town:
City of Gortyna
• Agios Thomas
Elevation ≈ 530 m 
Time of Construction   Origin
11th or 12th century  
Castle Type   Condition
Rather Poor

Close to the scenic village of St. Thomas (Agios Thomas) in Heraklion there are the ruins of one of the largest fortification works in the Cretan inland. Atop of a high hill overlooking the valleys of Profitis Helias and Venerato, you will find the ruins of Melissa fortress build during the 2nd Byzantine period (10th- 12th century).

During the Venetian period, the fort was already abandoned as it was not recorded in the official archives. Later, the area west of the fort housed the small settlement of Melissa, next to a spring that still has water. Today, only a few ruins remain.

Its east side is naturally fortified by steep cliffs, while access from the west is very easy through dirt road starting close to Agios Thomas. From the west the fort was protected by a large fortification wall which today survives in very poor condition. The main building of the fort (something like a large tower) stands at the center of the fortified yard.

Next to the tower you will find the whitewashed chapel of the Zoodohos Pigi, which is visible from many miles.
A similar fort is located close to Katalagari village


  • Giannis Christakis, "Historical Fortification Monuments of Crete (330BC-1898)", Publication "Ktitika Grammata", 2004
  • Website CretanBeaches - Fort Melissa
  • Nikos M.Gigourtakis , Monograph in the History Department of the University of Crete, “Byzantine fortifications in Crete in the 2nd Byzantine period (961-1204)”, Rethymno 2004

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