Spinalonga has become world famous, mainly due to its more recent history, as it was the place that hosted the lepers of Greece for many years. However, the fortification of Spinalonga with the famous round fortress has a much older history, leading to the Venetian occupation.
On the island of 85 acres, located in the bay of Agios Nikolaos, the Venetians built a strong fortress on the ruins of the ancient fortification. According to what has been recorded, the round fortress of Spinalonga was originally used for military purposes, since it served especially in the “harassment” of the Turks during the Cretan war. Its significant military importance was determined by its geographical location.
The gulf of Elounda served to the maximum the trade of the Venetians and for this reason they wanted to protect it and fortify it in the best possible way. However, as noted by the Venetian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, Spinalonga was not always an island, but was naturally united with the neighboring Kolokytha peninsula. According to Coronelli, a part of the peninsula was destroyed by the Venetians in 1526 and they created the island that was already fortified since antiquity. Their main goal was to protect the entrance to the port of the ancient city.
In addition, it is worth mentioning that the real name of the island is not Spinalonga. Before the Venetian occupation the island was called Kalydon and was named in Latin “spina lunga” which means “long thorn”. Through the paraphrase of the Venetian name, today’s Spinalonga emerged.