Towers and Venetian noble houses in a village that carries centuries of history
From its strategic semi-mountainous position the settlement oversees the whole region up to the Cretan Sea. The fortress-like buildings still seem ready for war, even so many centuries after. Towers, small factories, water tanks, gates, chimneys, arches and stone built house entrances...these are a few things you will discover when you wander around the neighbourhoods of Maroulas. The scenery will bring you images of epic movies, princesses waiting for their “forbidden loves” by the window, dragons and white horses... and apart from the dragons, the rest might have been true!
The story of Maroulas probably starts somewhere in the Minoan period. The remains of the Minoan settlement have been lost and the only proof that the Minoans were here is the Minoan cemetery just 700m west of the village. One thing is for certain: there was a settlement before the Venetian period and specifically from the second Byzantine period and on. Along with the Venetians came the towers, palaces, army barracks and wine-press factories. The Ottomans brought an eastern touch to the architecture and naturally it all meddled up with the elements of Cretan tradition.
The Great Tower
There were three towers in Maroulas. The first was most probably constructed during the Byzantine period and has now collapsed; the second is Venetian and is situated on the road to Vryssi (Βρύση). The last, but not least, stands as the indisputable emblem of the village, imposing and recently renovated. It is 14m high and has three floors. Built somewhere between the 15th and 16th century it served as an observation point and probably also as the habitation of a Venetian noble. A fascinating information is that the tower “communicated” with the fortress of Fortezza in Rethymno (with fire and smoke). The tower had “holes” from where they spilled burning oil or tar to the enemies. During the Ottoman period it was used as an army base and anchor point. But the story of the tower does not end here, as it was later inhabited by Asia Minor refugees and was finally abandoned during WWII. What you see today is the result of the renovation works conducted by the Municipality of Rethymno in the mid-90s.
As you walk around in Maroulas, the scenery brings you images of princesses, "forbidden loves", dragons and white horses... apart from the dragons, the rest might be true!
Stratones (Barracks), Metochi (summer house), Vryssi (Fountain)
The tower of Maroulas is hard to miss…but you will have to search for the other important sights of the village! It is better to ask locals where to find them. Look for Stratones, the barracks used by the guards and housekeepers of the farms of wealthy Cretan and Venetian families. West of the settlement, just a few meters away, you will meet a peculiar building complex known as “Metochi”, with its characteristic gate and elements of Renaissance and Islamic architecture.
It was constructed in different phases and part of it was destroyed during a Nazi bombardment on May 1941. You can still admire its distinctive arches and the remains of a Turkish hamam. Finish your sightseeing with a visit to the natural spring water fountain of Maroulas, Vryssi, which was the main water source of the village in combination with the numerous water tanks collecting rain water. The fountain took its final form during the Venetian period. The water is not drinkable anymore, but it’s nice to take a rest under the shade of the plane tree.
When you return to the village square, after a mini-tour through the centuries and cultures, the best way to return to the present is by sitting in one of the village taverns for a drink or meal, enjoying the view of the Cretan Sea and the stone houses of Maroulas.