Bourtzi is located at the entrance of the port of Nafplion, almost 450m far from the jetty and constitutes the city’s trademark. It is a Venetian tower complex that takes up nearly the entire little island. It was built in 1473 based on designs of the Italian architect Gambello. The fortification works continued during the second Venetian rule by Morozoni but also during the Turkish occupation. Venetians called it “Kasteli” and the port “Porto Cadena”, while the chieftains of the War of Independence in 1821 named it “Thalassopirgos” (Sea-tower). A chain connecting the island to the point of Acronafplia helped the Venetians crash the enemies’ ships. In 1822 the Greeks occupied it and fired the cannons against Nafplion that was under Turkish occupation. In 1826 the central office of the Greek government settled here and from 1865 Bourtzi hosted the executioners from Palamidi. During the 20th century this historic monument was used as center of the Greek National Tourism Organization and as a hotel. Today, various musical events take place in this archeological site.
At the entrance of the port of Nafplion, almost 450 m away from the jetty in the middle of the sea, on the island of St. Theodore, where the homonymous Byzantine temple used to be, is dominating Bourtzi, a fortress-trademark for Anapli. Bourtzi in the Turkish-Arabian dialect means island-fortress. The small fortress was built in 1473 by the Venetians, who in their attempt to face the pirate raids took advantage of the strategically-placed island and constructed a tower with cannons. It was designed by the Italian architect Antonio Gambello, but the fortification works continued even during the second Venetian rule, after Morozinis’ occupation (1686) and so the castle was formed as we know it today. The Turks also put their special taste on the fortress, as they surrounded it with the famous “porporela”, an underwater stone barrier that made the approach impossible, especially for bigger ships.
The fortress is built according to the shape of the island. In the middle rises a tall tower in the shape of an irregular hexagon and it has lower semicircular towers for the cannons on the east and west side. The internal space is three stories tall, and there are portable stairs, joining the floors. On the northeast side of the island there is a small bay, to ease a safer access.
Different names have been given to Bourtzi through the years by the various conquerors. First the Venetians named Bourtzi “Castello dello Soglio” (in Greek: “Kasteli”) and the port “Porto Cadena”(meaning port chain), because of the movable chain that joined Bourtzi and the point of Acronafplia, the current area “Pente Aderfia”, and was used to prevent the entrance to the port. Every time an enemy ship approached the port, the Venetians pulled the chain and cut the ship in half.
This fortress played a very important role during the War of Independence (1821). “Thalassopirgos”, meaning sea-tower, was the name the warriors gave to the castle and it was occupied in 1822 by the Greeks after two sieges. They remained locked in there firing against the two castles occupied by the Turks, Palamidi and Acronafplia. Bourtzi constituted also the shelter for the Greek government a few years later, in 1826 during the civil conflict.
This historic monument worked as a fortress till 1865. Then, by order of King George the First, it was used to host the executioners from Palamidi’s prison. During the 1930’s Bourtzi constituted the center of the Greek National Tourism Organization and later operated as a luxurious hotel.
Today, it is one of city’s common attractions. The little boats moored at the port carry out routes every day, transferring visitors to admire this magnificent archeological site all day long. The view of Nafplion is captivating. Every summer musical performances take place, under the moonlight, drifting the visitor to the deep blue sea of the Argolic Gulf and the city’s long history.