Situated on the north west coast of the
island 36 kms north of Argostoli, the Assos fortress is the larger of the
two castles on Kefalonia and is one of the largest castles in Greece. Its
2000 metres of walls follow the contours of the terrain and form an
irregular rectangle, reinforced at five points by bastions, virtually
running around the whole circumference of the Assos peninsula. Building
commenced in 1593 under the supervision of Ambrosius Cornelius, as the sign
outside the main gate shows. Petitions had been made by the Kefalonians to
the Venetian Senate for the foundation of a new fortress in 1584 as the
castle of Saint George could not defend the whole island. This coincided
with the more ambitious plans of Venice for protecting territories in the
East. They intended to found a city within the castle and move their
administration from Saint George's.
Assos has remained throughout history as a small town confined to the Borgo
near its little harbour with its inhabitants now amounting to around 100
people. Having laid out the interior of the castle to provide accommodation
for islanders living nearby, they were reluctant to move within its walls.
Although this huge, strong castle was built on a naturally impregnable
peninsula, its location also meant that under attack, its vital supplies
could also be cut off. The grander city plans were scaled down and Assos
became the capital of the northern part of Kefalonia and a building was
constructed to serve the needs of the local government. In 1822 about 1700
people came from Souli to stay in the Assos fortress and the whole area
became a quarantine area resulting in a site within the fortress named Souli.
After the union of the seven Ionian islands with the rest of Greece in 1865
there remained a small community in Assos.
After the war a prison farm was set up for political prisoners who made
terraces for their vineyards and crops of cereal. The prison was in use
until 1953. The latest inhabitants lived within the castle walls up until
the late sixties. They were known as the Kastrini people and were groups of
large families who lived from cultivating olives and grapes.
Visitors to the castle today can see the remains of the prison yard and
cells which are still intact in the centre of the fortress as well as the
remains of some Venetian buildings. Two of the castle's original four gates
are still standing. Near the castle is the small, now abandoned, church of
the Prophet Ilias which was built in 1888 over the ruins of another small
church dating back to 1500. Above the church there are ruins of a Venetian
building owned by the Gentilini family. The castle is open daily with no