(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1204 The Venetians acquire Crete and most likely at the same time Cerigo
1797 Assigned to France by the Treaty of Campoformido.
1798-1814 After several political changes, Cerigo becomes part of a British protectorate on the Ionian Islands.
Cerigo was called anciently Cithaera; famous for being the Native Country of Venus and Helena: So that were we to frame an Idea of this place from the fame of these Beauties, we might imagine it one of the most charming places of the World. But, on the contrary, the greatest part of it is a barren, rocky, and Mountainous Soil, ill peopled, and can brag of no plenty, neither of Corn, Wine, nor Oyl: which undoubtedly made Venus change her own Country for Cyprus; and Helena so willing to be stollen and carried into the pleasant Plains of the Continent. What
Beauties it now produceth, I am ignorant of; for I remember not that I saw a Woman there.
A journey into Greece by George Wheler, Esq., in company of Dr. Spon of Lyons - 1682
Cithera, the ancient name of the island is linked to the births of Venus and of Helen of Troy. It is mentioned in the title of the painting which gained Antoine Watteau admission to the French Academy.
View of the fortress (above) and of the harbour (below) of the town of Cerigo aka Kapsali
The chief Town and Fort lieth on the South-side of the Island, strong only towards the Sea; on which it looketh from a Precipice. Under it is a Harbour, but open to the Southerly Winds. Upon our entry into the Port, whether by neglect, or unskilfulness of our Captain, we ran foul of another Ship of our company; and if we did not endanger, did at least considerable damage to both. From the Fort also is to be seen Cerigotto, another little Island, inhabited only by Wild Goats. It belonged to Colonel Macarioti, who served in Candia, before it was taken. He is reported to have behaved himself at that Siege very gallantly. He made us taste of very good Wine of Cerigo, where he now liveth. From Cerigo, in clear and fair weather, Candia may be seen beyond Cerigotto. Wheler
Sept. 30. 1809. We anchor this evening at Kapsali, in Cerigo, after having encountered off the Taenarium promontory some stormy weather, which threatened to send us to the coast of Africa. (..) The situation of the modern town of Cerigo so much resembles that of the generality of ancient sites in the islands of the Aegean, and the harbour although not good with reference to ancient navigation, was so important by its position on the line of maritime communication between the eastern and western coasts of Greece, that one cannot but presume that the modern site was occupied by some ancient town or fortress; but there is some difficulty as to the name.
William Martin Leake - Travels in northern Greece - 1835
Cerigo is located between the Peloponnese and Crete. Together with the island of Cerigotto (Antikythira) it allowed control over the ships moving between the Ionian and the Aegean Sea.
Views of the harbour and of the fortress/town in a 1692 Venetian book
The obscurity of the history of Greece during
the middle ages, renders it impossible to trace
the modern appellation of this island to its origin.
It is almost the only instance of a Sclavonic name
in the Greek islands. Tzerigo was perhaps a Servian chieftain, who obtained possession of Cytera. Leake
The military importance of the island for the Venetians grew after 1500 when they lost the fortresses of Modon and Corone in the Peloponnese from which they controlled the maritime route to the Levant. Cerigo did not offer a good harbour, however it proved useful to the ships in providing a safe haven in case of bad weather or attack by the corsairs. As they did in many other locations the Venetians built their fortress exploiting a natural rock. It was not large enough to accommodate all the population of Cerigo so walls and towers were built to protect the adjoining part of the town.
The fortress and the walls protecting the town of Cerigo; (inset) a tower
The town of Cerigo stands on
a narrow ridge 500 yards in length, terminating
at the south-eastern end in a precipitous rock,
crowned with a castle which is accessible only on the side towards the town, by a steep and winding
path, but is commanded by a conical height at the
opposite end of the ridge. Leake
In 1718 Venice signed the Peace of Passarowitz by which it formally ceded the Peloponnese (aka Morea), Tino and three small fortresses along the coast of Crete in return for new territories in Dalmatia. Cerigo became its easternmost possession from which it could monitor the moves of the Ottoman fleet.
Entrance to the fortress: (inset) evidence of the Venetian insignia
This Island is still under the Dominion of the Venetians, who send a Proveditor thither. Wheler
The town is enfiladed by a battery of three guns in the castle, which was erected or repaired by the French when they took possession of the Venetian Islands. The garrison of Cerigo now consists only of two Russian officers with one company, and a few Albanians, chiefly Suliotes. Leake
The entrance to the fortress as usual was embellished with the winged lion and the coats of arms of the Venetian governors. Traces of these emblems are still visible. Cerigo was under Venetian rule until 1797, when the Most Serene Republic collapsed. It was part of the Ionian Islands (today it is part of the Athens region) and it followed the destiny of these islands by becoming French, Ottoman-Russian, French again and British before being reunited with Greece.
The Cathedral of Cerigo inside the fortress
Cerigo, contains about 50 villages
and 7000 inhabitants: in the town there are
Heraclides Ponticus (a IVth century BC Greek philosopher) describes the people of Cythera as laborious, and lovers of money, and the
island as productive, particularly in honey and
wine. The character of the people is the necessary consequence of the rocky soil on which they
dwell. Although the productions, like those of
some others of the dryest islands, (..) are good in their kinds, their quantity, with
the exception of honey and wine, is seldom more than sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants. There is nothing, therefore, to attract commerce to Cerigo. Leake
Unlike other Ionian Islands which flourished under the British rule, e.g. Corfu, Cerigo did not and even today it is almost unpopulated. The main buildings of the town were located inside the fortress: most of them have collapsed or are in very poor shape. Only the Cathedral (today Orthodox) is still in good condition. It has been whitewashed, but its architecture shows its Venetian design.
Bells in Cerigo
During the Venetian rule the most prominent families of Cerigo built their own little chapels, mainly below the fortress. Their bells were made in Venice.
Move to page two to see the minor fortifications of Cerigo.
You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754 (the Italian text is accompanied by an English summary) or you may wish to read excerpts (in Italian) from Memorie Istoriografiche del Regno della Morea Riacquistato dall'armi della Sereniss. Repubblica di Venezia printed in Venice in 1692 and related to this page.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfù (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)||Greek Mainland||Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)||Peloponnese (Morea)||Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra) Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata Modon (Methoni) Corone (Koroni) Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavà and Chielefà Mistrà Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||Negroponte (Chalki) Castelrosso (Karistos) Oreo Lemno (Limnos) Schiatto (Skiathos) Scopello (Skopelos) Alonisso Schiro (Skyros) Andro (Andros) Tino (Tinos) Micono (Mykonos) Siro (Syros) Egina (Aegina) Spezzia (Spetse) Paris (Paros) Antiparis (Andiparos) Nasso (Naxos) Serifo (Serifos) Sifno (Syphnos) Milo (Milos) Argentiera (Kimolos) Santorino (Thira) Folegandro (Folegandros) Stampalia (Astipalea)||Crete||Grambusa (Granvousa) Castello (Kasteli/Kissamos) La Canea (Xania) Souda Candia (Iraklion) Rettimo (Rethymno) Spinalonga and Castel Mirabello Castles on the southern coast Sittia and Paleocastro|