- The lower part of Castle of Mytilene The lower part of Castle of Mytilene
- The middle part of Castle of Mytilene The middle part of Castle of Mytilene
- The upper part of Castle of Mytilene The upper part of Castle of Mytilene
- The Castle of Mytilene: Immense, Unassailable & Continually Awe-inspiring
- General Information and History
- The Structure of the Castle:
3.1 The Upper Castle
3.2 The Middle Castle
3.3 The Lower Castle
- Opening Times
Board the ferry to Lesvos and, at the end of your voyage and as the boat reaches the harbour, be rewarded with a view of one of the city’s major landmarks, the glorious Castle of Mytilene: an enduringly majestic structure that expands over the great Lesvos capital and dominates the skyline above the hill of Kastri. The Castle of Mytilene, the nucleus of all city life between the years of antiquity and the Second World War, continues to look down on the city and harbor below, haunting visitors with its enduring architectural splendor and the unassailable structure that would once have enclosed the entire city, protecting Mytilenians from a score of aspiring assailants.
Extending over an expanse of 60 acres, the Castle of Mytilene remains one of the largest Castles in the Mediterranean and has been impervious to both the passage of time and the passing of power from one of the island’s invaders or occupants to the next. In fact, if the history of Mytilene is manifold, each major event in the history of the city has left its indelible mark on the Castle’s appearance.
The Castle was so inextricably linked to life in the city that Mytilene itself bore the name of ‘Kastro’ (castle) up until the early 20th century AD. The Castle itself was a virtually unassailable structure intended to ward off the possibility of attack to the population within its walls. Erected during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the Castle was altered by Francesco Gateluzzi in 1373 AD and by Sultan Bayezid II and Bekir Pasha in the years of the Ottoman occupation of Lesvos. Additions to the original structure included new walls, two round towers with cannon, the fortifications in the lower north section, the barracks and polygonal tower and a gunpowder vault. In the years following the island’s liberation in 1912, the Castle became a source of materials with which to build refugee housing - a trend that, inevitably, eventually led to its deterioration.
The Castle of Mytilene was inhabited until a little after the Second World War and encompasses three different structures: the Upper Castle, the Middle Castle (built by Gatelouzos) and the Lower Castle (built by the Ottomans).
The Upper Castle is accessed from the southern part of the fort and contains a variety of Gatelouzos and Paleologos family crests as well as an Ottoman inscription. To the right of the central gate there are five towers created using raw materials from a variety of pre-existing ancient buildings. The gunpowder storeroom of the Ottoman guard and the remains of “Kule” Mosque may also be encountered onsite. A number of tombs and a sarcophagus have been discovered within the perimeter of the Castle, where it is believed Francesco Gatelouzzi the First and Mary Paleologina were buried. In 1984, a temple built in honor of the goddesses Demeter, Core and Cybele was discovered in the area near the Mosque.
The Middle Castle is comprised of a host of Ottoman structures, such as an Ottoman “Tekes”, a Seminary (“Mendreses”), the stone-built gunpowder storeroom, the Military Hospital and a Byzantine water-storage tank.
The Lower Castle was constructed by Ibrahim Khan in 1644 and includes the ruins of the eighty buildings that once accommodated the Ottoman army, a bathhouse and an old fountain.
No tour of Mytilene is complete without a trip to the city Castle and a visit here is strongly advised, no matter whether you are keen to discover this major Mytilenian monument or just to take in the wonderful scenery extending from the Castle to the sea and city below.
Opening times are between 08:00 am and 15:00, Monday to Sunday; an entrance fee of 2 euros applies.