Kefalonia's Castle of St George
Photo: John Brooks Photography
Panoramic views in all directions.
The Castle of St George or Agios Giorgios is one of the best known and most visited historic sites on the island of Kefalonia. The original castle dates back to 11th century Byzantine times but most of what is seen today come from the Venetians who took it from the Turks at the end of 1500 with the aid of the Spanish and the Kefalonians themselves.
The Venetians fortified the castle walls with the use of forced labour and shipped in Venetian craftsmen to build a small town in the front of the castle in the area called the Kastro.
The castle became the effective capital of Kefalonia until 1757 when it was transferred to Argostoli.
Saint George's Castle sits on a strategically located 320 metre high peak above the villages of Peratata and Travliata where signposts show visitors the way.
A road called Strata Communa' was built from Argostoli and it runs around the mountain out of sight of any passing pirate ships, eventually linking the Kastro to the nearby church of Evangelistria and to the castle itself.
Work on the castle was completed in 1545 and it covers an area of 16,000 square metres and is enclosed by 620 metres of walled fortifications.
The castle has a horseshoe shaped courtyard built around a central tower. The walls are separated by three large main bastions, one faces Argostoli, one guarding the entrance and the other overlooking the sea.
Castle buildings are decorated with the coats of arms of various Venetian families. The castle offered security and protection for those who lived in the Kastro and clearly Kefalonians preferred the occupation by Venetians to that of the Turks.
The strategic location high on the mountain offers panoramic views in all directions and there is plenty for the holiday visitor to explore. Although many of the smaller building remain ruins the mighty castle walls are virtually intact despite the many earthquakes on Kefalonia since they were built.
The restored main gate is one of the most impressive sights but, although surviving walls and buildings have been cleaned and restored there has been remarkably little in the way of archaeological excavation of the ruined Kastro.
It is though that a tunnel was once dug to connect the castle to Argostoli but the entrance to it has yet to be discovered and most of it has probably been obliterated by earthquakes.
As well as the castle itself and the remains of village houses in the Kastro there are the ruins of the medieval church of Evangelistria, which dates from 1420. and the church of Agios Theodori which could be older than Evangelistria.
South of Kastro is the historic convent of Agios Andreas Milapidias where part of the church has been converted into an ecclesiastical museum which has some exceptional post-Byzantine icons.
At Kastro there is a taverna as well as a cafe and a small music bar and the gallery Polytropon which has paintings, ceramics and other arts and craft works. lovely coffee shop selling home made cakes and pastries
The castle is usually open to visitors throughout the summer months and entrance is free. Take care though, the castle closes at 2pm most days and it can be closed for long periods while restoration is in progress so it's worth checking before starting out.
Parking near the castle can be a problem so many leave their cars in the picturesque village below and take the 10 minute walk to the castle walls.
Many visitors who find the castle closed still enthuse about the trip, the views, the cafe, the shop and the taverna so you are unlikely to have a wasted journey. A visit to the castle can easily be combined with a trip to the Monastery of Agios Gerasimos and the Ribola Winery.