If you drive from Chania on the curvy road to Sfakia, and then turn east for the last 11 km to Frangokastello, you will be able to see from the foothills the great fortress Frangokastello with its tall towers.
Frangokastello in ancient times
During researches and excavations in the area of Frangokastello, traces of human presence in prehistoric times were identified, but also in Roman and early Byzantine periods, it seems to have been a pretty important place; extensive pottery, remains of monuments, the two basilicas of St. Nikita and Astratigos, other remains of walls and cairns indicate a significant settlement in the 6th century AD. However, this area and the south coast of Crete in general was subsequently abandoned and the settlements gradually destroyed, which may have been caused by the Arab invasions of the 7th century.
The construction of the fortress and the brothers Patsos
Already in 1340, the Venetians in Chania demanded a fortress near the place “Agios Nikitas” (now Frangokastello) to protect the coast from pirate raids on the one hand and on the other hand, to take control of the rebellious inhabitants. In 1371 the construction of the fort began and was completed in 1374 under difficult conditions, as the rebellious Cretans constantly opposed the undertaking. A plaque in front of the mounting honors the 6 brothers Patsos, the brave campaigning for the freedom of Crete. At night they destroyed the walls built during the day by the Venetians. After their capture, they were hung from the towers of the fortress.
In principle, the fortress was a bad idea, because the Frangokastello, as it was called, never fulfilled its intended purpose, and for long periods it was not even manned.
During the Ottoman rule, it suffered the same fate and its decline continued.
Legend of Drosoulites – riding humanoid shadows
Each year, from the end of May to the beginning of June, shadows appear in the early morning on the beach in front of the castle in Frangokastello: the Drosoulites.
Drosoulites are the spirits of dead warriors who defended the Frangokastello Fortress, under the command of Hatzimichalis Dalianis against the Turks. 600 Greeks fought against the 8000 Turks in the Battle of Frangokastello (May 17, 1828). They resisted more than a week, but in the end, 335 of them got killed along with Dalianis. According to legend, the bodies of the warriors remained unburied until a strong wind of “Orthi Ammos” (popular beach in Frankokastello) was swirling through the air sand and covered them with it.
In the last days of May and the first in June, walking or riding humanoid shadows, dressed and armed in black, proceed from the church of Agios Charalambos and the old fortress Frangokastello over and fade near the coast. They move in a line and appear for about 10 minutes when there is wind and high humidity.
The locals believe that it is the souls of the fallen soldiers of Chatzimichali Daliani who still find no rest. The word Drosoulites has its origin in the word Drosiá = (morning) fresh.
In the following years, the fort and the affiliated settlement was completely abandoned.
In recent decades, a new settlement was built along the coast road again. Here, the locals try to satisfy the growing tourist needs, and the buildings consist mainly of studios, apartments, small hotels, taverns etc.
The fortress in summer is the goal of many tour buses from all directions of Crete. The program includes time for swimming as well as lunch.
A long stretch of sandy beach spreads out directly in front of the sand dunes of the fortifications, and fine golden sand invite you to linger. The safe beach is ideal for families with small children. Taverns, beach chairs / umbrellas are available.
Orthi Ammos on the east side of the settlement: Orthi Ammos means “upright Sand” ….. here one must first walk down the dunes via a few steps. Do not forget to bring everything you need with you as umbrellas or chairs are not available for rent here. Also here the sea is child friendly. Taverns are located directly above the dune, and you are most welcome to take a seat here even for just a coffee.
Also on the western side of Frangokastello you will find fine sandy beaches, partially with a few cliffs among in the water. Read more about the beaches in Frangokastello in Frangokastello – long sandy beaches next to the fortress