The castle was built in 1371 AD by the Venetians and managed to complete it in 1374 AD, to be able to control the pirate raids of the Arabs and the frequent uprisings of the locals.
The Venetians called it Castle of Saint Nikitas due to the existence of a temple of the Saint, near the castle, while the locals, wanting to show their contempt for the foreign conquerors, called it Frangokastello, the fortress of the Franks, Castel Franco or Franco Castello.
The castle is rectangular in shape, with a square tower on each corner, and above the southern gate, it has a relief of St. Mark’s lion between the crown of Quirini and Dolfin. It was not, however, even this magnificent fortress capable of harnessing the courageous people of Sfakia, and for this reason it was decommissioned over time.
The castle “found its meaning” about 450 years later when Crete was captured by the Turks.
On 18 May 1828 (with the old calendar), the castle was used as a fortress by Epirus Chatzimichalis Daliani (Michalis Christou) and his men in the battle against the Turks. The evening of that day found the defenders of Frangokastello not giving us, but without their leader.
After the death of Daliani, the Greeks retreated and fortified in the Venetian castle. His armed combatants, led by the hero Stratis Deligianakis (Bikostrati), from Asfendos Sfakion, managed to keep the besiegers for 7 days and the castle was impregnable. Mustafa pasha, seeing that he was being encircled with threatening aid from many people from Sfakia, preferred the discreet retreat. As a gesture of goodwill, he allowed the remaining Greek warriors to leave Frangokastello without hurting them.
After leaving, he blew a large part of the castle and began to retreat with his army. There, in the inaccessible canyons, Sfakian revolutionaries, rushed and decimated Mustafa’s army.
The fortress was repaired some forty years later to be used during the Cretan Revolution, by the chieftain Daskalogiannis (Ioannis Vlachos) and until the island was liberated.
Today it is kept in good condition after the last restoration work done by the Byzantine Antiquities Group and remains an uninhabited and silent witness to the rich history of the past. This wonderful archaeological site is used today by the Municipality of Sfakia for cultural events. And you will be really fortunate if at any moment you find yourself in Frangokastello, within these walls of History and Myth, to watch a devout evening with traditional Cretan music and dances under the light of our own moon!
The site is also a timeless meeting point for all Sfakians each year on September 15th. On this day they celebrate the memory of Saint Nikitas, whose temple is near the castle. After the religious parts, a feast follows, and then begins the “Nikiteia” (events in honor of the saint).
Other temples, just a short distance from the castle, are the church of Agios Astratigos, Agia Pelagia and to the east of the castle the half-deserted monastery of Agios Charalambos, where the Drosoulites start every year on May 18.
According to the tradition, the bodies of the Battle of 1828, remained in vain. And Mythos came to cover them and leave them forever in History! But every year on May 18th, on the anniversary of the battle, when the sun rises slowly and the dawn of dawn has covered the plain with the blossoming blobs, the Drosulites re-awake!
For only a few minutes, the melancholy ghosts of the Daliani warriors start crawling over the walls of the castle and then, they are lost again, over the waters of the Libyan Sea! Shadows of warriors and blacksmiths with weapons in their arms, pass through the gates of the castle and leave, claiming a place in our modern history and memory!