The fortress of Naupaktos

Historical overview
   Τhe fortress of Naupaktos The fortress of Naupaktos with is consequent construction phases from antiquity to the Ottoman period, despite its deterioration at some parts, constitutes one of the most important examples of fortification architecture in Greece, whereas it is intrinsically linked to the history of the city. The earliest fortification, according to tradition, was created already in the 12th century B.C. by the Dorians. The acropolis was fortified in the classical era, whereas in the early Byzantine period, Procopius mentions the sturdy and extended fortifications of the city. In the 9th century the fortified hill is referred to also by Theophanes Continuatus. Philip of Tarentum restored and reinforced the existing Byzantine fortifications at the end of the 13th century.The fortifications that are extant today, however, are, in their main part and with a few post-dated interventions, the result of the guidance of Venetian engineers during the so-called First Venetian period (1407-1499). We have sparse information about the actual construction works of the castle mostly from the correspondence of the Metropolitan Bishop Ioannis Apokaukos, from minatures on manuscripts, from the Venetian archives (mainly related to the expenses for the fortification constructions) and from findings of sporadic excavations.
The acropolis
The main kernel of the castle is a round wall on the top of the hill which overlooks the city of Naupaktos at an altitude of about 200 meters, right at the site where the ancient acropolis -in all probability- and the Byzantine acropolis was located; this is the Venetian “Peritorio”. The acropolis, of a total surface of 2 sq. klms is the better fortified part of the complex, the last resort in case of a siege. It comprises a Byzantine central tower, two more side towers, a complex of rooms and storage rooms and a large water tank, which offered sufficiency in times of siege. Within the acropolis there is the small church of Prophet Elijiah, built over the mosque Baba-Çavuș, which was alternately built over a Byzantine church. Sculptures and opus sectile from that church are to be found in situ. At a small distance from the church there is yet another Byzantine building, probably used as public baths. Farther north one still discerns the remains of a Byzantine church, part of which was later incorporated into the fortifications and is nowadays visible, with its characteristic arched brick openings.

The landings
     The entrance to the fortressTwo “arms”, parts of the wall which start from the acropolis go all the way downhill, one on the eastern and the other on the western side of the hill and surround the entrance of the small port. Four transverse walls join these two “arms” at intervals, forming five landings from the hilltop to the sea. The two lower ones surround the “intra muros” neighborhoods and the port of Naupaktos.
The fortress of Naupaktos was protected by a trench which extended at the two lower walls to the east and at the first outer wall from the side of the sea to the west. The castle had four gates on the peripheral walls. Two of them are situated on the east and west side of the lower landing whereas the third one lies on the Northeastern end of the subsequent landing, at the point where the outer part of the wall, after the interposition of a round rampart, changes direction and turns to the west and then to the north in order to meet the fortification of the hilltop. The fourth gate consists in fact of three successive gates on the outer western wall of the third landing from the hilltop. The western part of the lower landing, i.e. of the city, consists of a Venetian double gate which in the Ottoman period (after 1714) was covered with stone entablature. In the same period one more gate was probably added in front of the entrance  bearing a spout from where hot water or oil was shed to invaders. Below this spout, a bit higher from the key of the bow of the last gate is preserved the building inscription where the year 1126 Hijra=1714 A.D. is marked.


    The eastern gate of the fortress The eastern gate of the lower landing, the so-called “Gate of Salona” is not preserved today. Close to the eastern gate of the next landing there is a round tower, on the outer surface of which lies a slab with a flat relief representation of the Lion of St. Mark, emblem of Venice. Under the lion there was a second slab (removed today) with coats of arms with the date MCCCCLX (=1460). Of particular importance for the dating of the fortifications is the architectural detail of cordon in relief, so typical of Venetian fortifications, protruding under the ramparts of the tower. This decorative element, looking like a protruding semi-circular “cyma recta”, is seen also at the corner bulwark north of the eastern gate of the lower landing. On each transcendent wall there is a gate leading to the next landing. The most important of those is the “Iron-Gate” on the outer wall. It consists of a door frame and a spout at the height of the ramparts. On the base of the spout, relying on three φουρούσια, there is a relief resembling a Renaissance Italian coat of arms, which was probably placed there in second use in the Ottoman period. The gate of the seaside is covered by a low arch and is protected by a spout and a round little tower with a pointed roof.




View of the walls The walls of the two lower landings are reinforced at intervals with round or square towers and are preserved in good condition. The differences in masonry, evident in several parts of the walls, attest to its various construction phases. The walls in some parts have known consequent transformations in order to withstand the evolution of firearms and for that reason they are consolidated with bulwarks, such as the bulky, U-shaped bulwark facing the port, known as “ Çavuș bastion” (dapia Çavuș ). The largest part of the walls is constructed with coarsely carved stones, shattered bricks and tiles and plenty of mortar. There are also parts constructed with finely carved rectangular limestone and lime-mortar, such as the round Venetian tower to the east of the castle and others, such as the outer walls of the port, where one can see spolia from other buildings of the city. The walls bear mainly two-sided ramparts and loopholes.
In the past each landing had a distinctive name. Thus, the acropolis was called “Peritorio”, the third landing Uromasio/Uromiari, whereas the fourth one comprised the “Niokastro” or “Upper Town”. It is in this landing that are situated the restored mansion of the Tzavellas family and an Ottoman bath complex with the distinctive perforated domes and water-spouts with walled-in Byzantine and Ottoman sculptures (Vezyr-Camii area). To the east, on a round bastion, rises the tower of the Clock. In the last landing, the so-called “Vrondolaka”, is comprised the “Inner Town” and the Venetian port. Next to the port is preserved the Fethiye Mosque. To the west, over the public road, one can see the imposing “bastion of Botsaris”, which is linked to the fortress-house of the Botsaris family. Today the fortifications have been altered, whereas parts of the walls have been demolished in order to allow the development of the modern city. Yet, the atmosphere of the old castle-city is still preserved.

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