Preserving History: The Restoration of Mytilene Castle in Mytilene, Greece

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The funded project, with a budget of 2,350,000 euros, for the consolidation and restoration of the northeastern rampart of the upper castle of Mytilene has been completed.

As announced by Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni, the project has already been included in and is running in the Recovery Fund, along with a project for the continuation of the walls, with a budget of 2.5 million euros, as well as a project for the restoration of the Ottoman medrese (religious school) inside the castle, with a budget of 1.5 million euros.

"The projects in Mytilene Castle have been a priority for the Ministry of Culture for many years. Already a very important project has been completed, which - I will not mention the previous funding periods, I will only refer to the period from 2007 until today - is evaluated at over 10-12 million euros," said Ms Mendoni during her visit to Mytilene Castle last summer.

As part of the project "Consolidation and Restoration of the NE Rampart (Area B) of the Upper Castle and Rebuilding of an Ottoman Era Residence in the Lower Castle of Mytilene," funded by the Operational Program "North Aegean 2014-2020," the necessary excavations and exploratory work were carried out along the internal perimeter of the rampart. According to the archaeologists of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesbos, these revealed a section of the fortification (with a total length of 130 meters and a maximum height of 14.20 meters), which can be traced back to at least two parallel construction phases:

  • The upper visible section of the fortification (with a maximum height of 14.20 meters and a width of 1.20 meters) dates back to the Ottoman era (18th-19th century). The stone masonry of the upper structure has been rebuilt and repaired several times due to natural disasters or attacks. Different construction methods are evident, which likely correspond to different chronological phases.
  • The lower late Byzantine fortification (14th century) (with a length of 74 meters, a maximum height of 5 meters, and a width of 2.20 meters) is founded on carved rock. The flat surface on its inner face, the uniformity of the size of the selected stones, the stability achieved through careful carving and the use of mortar, as well as the connection of its two faces with transverse stones provide evidence of the construction technique used during the Gattelouzi era. The incorporated marble architectural elements, such as column bases, capitals, entablatures, triglyphs, pilasters, inscribed lintels, and columns, testify to the repairs and additions made by the Gattelouzi family, incorporating parts of the Byzantine walls. Representative samples of colourful glazed ceramics, as well as coins dating to the 14th-15th century and 18th-19th century, confirm the dating of the rampart during these centuries.

According to the archaeologists of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesbos, Mytilene Castle, covering an area of ​​60 acres, was a naturally fortified position since ancient times, providing control over the two harbours, the northern and southern ones, of the city. It had a strong fortification, and on the northeastern side, it was founded on rocky terrain outcrops.

Preserving History: The Restoration of Mytilene Castle in Mytilene, Greece 1

In its current form, it is structured in three enclosures: the upper one in the southeast corner, which constitutes the castle's last line of defence, including the central defensive tower and the powder magazine.

Within the middle enclosure are the prison buildings, the medrese, the tekke, the Byzantine reservoir, the crypts, and another powder magazine. This main enclosure was accessible through two gate complexes from the south and the west, through the so-called Orta Kapou.

Two smaller gates in the north of the enclosure serve the movement to and from the residences of the Lower Castle, the Saplitza, and the hammam, which, surrounded by the coastal fortification wall, are part of the third enclosure.

The diverse fortification complex of the castle (walls, gun emplacements, monumental towers and bastions, impressive gates) is an integral part of the extensive fortification works constructed in Lesbos during the Medieval and Modern periods.

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