Spinalonga

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The Isle of Lepers

Where Culture Meets History

“…Spinalonga. She played with the word rolling it around her tongue like an olive stone. The island lay directly ahead and as the boat approached the great Venetian fortification which fronted the sea. This, she speculated, might be a place where history was still warm, not stone cold, where the inhabitants were really not mythical…”

V. Hislop, The Island 

An island of history and memories, an island with an imposing fortress lies in the Bay of Mirabello. A walk around Spinalonga will guide you through the pages of the novel, feeling the serenity of Spinalonga while the remnants of its history will tempt you in staying longer to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and its glorious history.

Spinalonga

Mysterious Greece Tips

About Spinalonga

General Information

Spinalonga is an island of history and memories, an island with an imposing fortress is lying at the Bay of Mirabello. A walk around this mysterious island will guide you through the pages of the novel, feeling the serenity of Spinalonga while the remnants of its history will tempt you in staying longer to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and its glorious history. Discover Spinalonga through a photographic journey of Google!

Historical Information

During the Hellenistic period, the island was fortified from the inhabitants of Olounda in order to protect the harbor of the Ancient City of Olous, an ancient town that has now immersed under the thin strip of land that connects Elounda with the Peninsula of Kolokytha. The island belonged to Olounda until the Arab pirates forced the residents to leave from the island, which remained deserted until the Venetian domination. At that time, the island was fortified with a new powerful fortress, according to the fortified architecture system of Genoese Bressani and Latino Orsini, above the ruins of the ancient fortress of Olounites at the highest point of the area. Spinalonga remained under the occupation of the Venetian suntil the Ottoman and Venetian War in 1715, when the island was captured from the Ottoman Empire. During the Ottoman Occupation, the island served as a place of exile and isolation while later an Ottoman settlement was established as a place of absolute security for families. In the middle of the 19th century, the harbor of Spinalonga obtained a license for export trade and a large number of merchants and sailors gathered in the island who took advantage of the safety of the fortified settlement in order to exploit the commercial seaways of the Mediterranean. In the end of the 19th century, the life of the settlement was stopped owing to political changes of Crete, until the Military Forces of France were settled in Spinalonga for a period of one year in 1897. Until 1903, the Turks abandoned the island owing to the uncertainty that prevailed amongst the Ottomans in Crete because of the revolutionary actions of Christians. The same year, the Cretan State established the isolation of lepers and decided to create a leper hospital in Spinalonga. This was the time that the island became a leper colony for the patients of the disease of Hansen, known as leprosy, who were forbidden to leave. In the following years, lepers from the whole area of Greece were sent at Spinalonga. A story of pain conquered the island for almost half a century, a place where the people did not have access to medication. However, the Leper Hospital was upgraded later while the residents of the opposite coast established the village of Plaka so as to serve as aid for the leper colony. During the Italian and German domination, the occupiers did not release the lepers and were forced to take care of the patients since the opposite village of Plaka was abandoned. As the Germans and the Italians did not enter the leper colony, the lepers operated an illegal radio sharing the news.  In 1957, the discovery of antibiotics cured the patients of leprosy and the island was deserted. After the renovation of the old buildings and houses and the fortifications of the Venetian walls, the island became one of the most important fortresses of Greece.

Travel Information

By Boat (5.3 Nautical Miles): The island of Spinalonga is accessible by boat from the areas of Agios Nikolaos, Elounda and Plaka from early May until the end of October.

By Car: The Peninsula of Spinalonga is accessible by car from the bridge in the area of Elounda, where you can leave your car at the parking space next to the Church of Agios Loukas.

As Impregnable As it Gets: The Fortress of Spinalonga

The Fortress of Spinalonga is an exemplary sample of Venetian architecture located on the island of Spinalonga. During the Hellenistic period, the island was fortified from the inhabitants of Olounda in order to protect the harbor of the Ancient City of Olous. Under the Venetian domination, the island was fortified with a new powerful fortress, according to the fortress system of Genese Bressani and Latino Orsini above the ruins of the ancient fortress of Olounites at the highest point of the area. After the renovation of the old buildings and houses and the fortifications of the Venetian walls, the island became one of the most important fortresses of Greece.

Find More Information about Spinalonga

Discover Spinalonga though the Brochure of the Official Tourism Website of Greece !

It’s Sunset Time

The best spot to enjoy the sunset is the Venetian Fortress of Spinalonga!